by Lisa Mcintosh

Being baptised as a baby has been traditional for most Lutherans in Australia and New Zealand. But for Luke Horner, along with many others, the journey to joining God’s family has been different.

Now husband to Amy and a father of two young children, Luke went to church occasionally as a child with his mum and attended a Lutheran primary school. But he’d never been baptised.

‘I knew I wasn’t baptised in primary school, especially being a Christian-based school and learning about God’, Luke, from South Australia’s Riverland, says. ‘For my parents, baptism wasn’t something that they thought was essential for me.

‘I knew there was a God but, during my teenage years, I thought God was not as important as my other priorities at the time.’

In 2006, Luke got to know Amy as both were playing sport – football and netball – in Waikerie. They got chatting in the pub one evening after home-ground matches. When they started going out, Amy says, ‘we had no idea that we both held a connection to a belief in God’.

Amy had been baptised as a child, attended church and Sunday school and grew up with a strong Christian influence from her parents. ‘However, during my teenage and early adulthood years, I didn’t go to church as much’, she says. ‘However, I still held my Christian faith and always believed in God.’

When the couple became engaged, they decided on a church wedding. They knew Pastor Richard Fox, who was serving the Waikerie Lutheran parish and umpiring local Aussie Rules football, both through Amy’s parents being active church members and Luke’s sport. They asked Pastor Richard whether he would conduct their 2010 wedding and he offered some pre-marriage preparation sessions.

‘Luke was the vice-captain of the Waikerie Football Club at the time’, Pastor Richard explains. ‘Luke and I didn’t talk about Christianity while at footy, though a few of his teammates suggested I might be better in the pulpit rather than umpiring! I invited them to come and compare! But Luke and I acknowledged each other and said “hi”, which was a big thing between a footy player and an umpire.’

During Luke and Amy’s pre-marriage sessions, Pastor Richard chatted with Luke and the topic of baptism came up.

‘Luke wasn’t baptised but wondered what it was, and I shared about what happens. He seemed surprised about its simplicity but also the great gifts it gives.’

After completing the preparation, the couple was married. But while he remembers the wedding as a wonderful celebration, it was what happened the morning after that also stands out in Pastor Richard’s memory. ‘I think Luke and Amy were the first people at church’, he says. ‘I asked them why they were there, and they explained that they wanted to worship before going on their honeymoon.’

After their wedding, the Horners attended church regularly and Pastor Richard says occasionally he would ask how they were going, and if they had any questions about worship, God and baptism.

‘Some months later after church one Sunday, Luke and Amy waited around to talk with me’, Pastor Richard says. ‘They wanted to know more about baptism and what the options were for Luke. I went through the baptism rite with them and discussed any questions they had.’

Luke was baptised in 2011 in a private service with Pastor Richard and close family.

Pastor Richard describes the occasion as ‘wonderful and intimate’. ‘The resulting joy on both of their faces was heart-warming and infectious’, he says.

Luke was happy to be baptised into God’s family. ‘Being baptised for me means that I know God is always there for me and always will be, no matter what happens’, he says. ‘Once baptised it was also a good feeling to know that I could join in holy communion.

‘If you are thinking about getting baptised as an adult or about going to church, look into it, as it’s never too late.’

Amy and Luke say that for them there are many blessings of baptism: ‘God’s love and belonging to his family indefinitely; knowing that God will forgive us for all our sins; knowing that he is always there watching over us and keeping us safe, no matter what life events we are enduring.’

After several years of trying to start a family before Isaac was born, followed by Evie, the Horners say it was ‘extremely important’ to them that their children be baptised. Pastor Lee Kroehn baptised Isaac. When Evie was born, Waikerie was in a pastoral vacancy, so the Horners invited Pastor Richard, who by then was serving as director of Lutheran Media, to baptise her.

‘Pastor Fox has been an inspiration and a great influence on our lives, and we will forever be grateful for this’, Amy says. ‘He continues to be a strong part of our life and now our children’s journey.’

Pastor Richard says, ‘God works in ways beyond our understanding and through people we may not expect. God was already working on Luke and Amy before I arrived, and he used me in a small part on their journey and relationship with Jesus Christ.’

And what do Amy and Luke, who are now members at St Pauls at nearby Ramco, believe are the most important things to remember from their faith journeys so far? ‘That God loves you and he wants you to be a part of his family.’

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

by Kate Bourne

After a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Conference on Lutheran Education (ACLE) was held in Melbourne last month, drawing 450 in-person attendees and a further 120 people online.

The hybrid conference at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre offered an opportunity for connection and re-connection for a Lutheran education community that has faced significant challenges in the past couple of years.

The ACLE theme was ‘One voice, many paths’. With more than 40 presenters leading sessions across the three-day event from 5 July, participants were able to hear from those currently serving in Lutheran education, as well as national and international keynote speakers.

Opening the conference, Lutheran Education Australia (LEA) Executive Director Lisa Schmidt thanked participants for their ‘passionate and dedicated service over the past few years’. ‘This is our long-awaited chance to gather as a whole again’, she said. ‘Communities need connection and nurturing – the next few days is a dedicated time for doing that.’

International speakers included Rev Dr Chad Rimmer, a Lutheran pastor who serves as the program executive for Identity, Communion and Formation at the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, Switzerland. Neuroscience trainer Nathan Wallis travelled from New Zealand to present a three-part series entitled ‘Engage your brain and the first 1000 days’, which was of particular interest for early childhood educators.

During a collaborative session designed to inform the national initiative exploring our vision for learners and learning, attendees were asked, ‘What’s your vision for the learner and learning in 2022 and beyond in Lutheran education?’.

Given the experience schools have had in recent times it was no surprise that the session ‘Me, We, Us, Wellbeing in the Workplace’, led by Natasha Rae, was in high demand and required a last-minute change to seating configuration to allow more people to attend.

On the final day, Dave Faulkner and Maddie Scott-Jones from professional learning organisation Education Changemakers prompted participants to work together in school groups to develop a plan for action and impact to take back to their schools.

Addressing conference attendees, LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith described Lutheran schooling as an integral part of the ongoing life and mission of the church. ‘While the Lutheran Church has been forming young people through its schools, Lutheran schooling has been forming the church’, he said. ‘Therefore, that makes ACLE a significant event in the Lutheran Church calendar’.

At the conclusion of the conference, the ACLE candle was extinguished and handed to Lutheran Education Queensland, which will host the next triennial event in 2025.

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

by Helen Brinkman

When the Brisbane Bears joined what was to become the Australian Football League (AFL) in 1987, who would have guessed the ripples of opportunity that flowed from its emergence as the first Queensland-based club?

The club’s home at the famed Gabba, the Brisbane Cricket Ground, created an unexpected boon for the good folk of the nearby Nazareth Lutheran Church, Woolloongabba.

For the past three decades, the Bears’ home matches, and those of their successor the Brisbane Lions, have created an ongoing fundraising opportunity for the church.

Located 600 metres up the road from the Gabba, a tenant in one of the church rental properties first noted a few cars parking on the church property on game days.

It wasn’t long before all vacant space owned by the historic Hawthorn Street church was up for grabs for home matches, coordinated by longstanding Nazareth members Ruth and Colin Schneider.

Ruth and Colin, now both 81, took responsibility for organising paid parking, firstly on the congregation’s vacant lots, then its car parks and grounds. It was $5 a car park for footy patrons. ‘In the end, we could get 90 cars because Colin and I would do it together. He’d park them, and I’d stand at the gate and collect the money’, says Ruth.

In the early years, the operation become more sophisticated when Colin set up temporary spotlights for evening matches. Additional parking spaces were utilised around the church property, its kindergarten and across the road at Nazareth’s then-senior citizens’ home.

As development occurred, parking opportunities changed but never stopped. The Schneiders were helped by fellow members and enjoyed the camaraderie of fans usually enjoying fun, pre-match banter about their beloved teams – and yes, they still do allow opposition team supporters equal access to the car parks!

‘It was a fun time and everyone’s happy because they are going to the footy’, says Colin.

Even when the church was gutted by fire in May 2000, the car parking continued.

Colin recalls how most parkers, who were now regulars and had seen details of the church fire plastered over the news, had donated generously toward the church restoration fund. ‘We’d be getting $50 notes just given to us’, he says.

And Ruth even saved the church from a $300 fine for a misplaced parking sign, after a written plea to the Brisbane Lord Mayor asking him to waive the fine as the church had recently burnt down and the parking funds were supporting its re-build.

For Ruth and Colin, car parking has been part of a life-long connection to the church. ‘It has been part of our lives to be at church, and you see things that need to be done, and you think, “I can do that”’, says Ruth.

‘The people you meet are normally so lovely and you enjoy their company. You have happy times; your friends are there and it’s a good feeling when you do something like this.’ The pair coordinated the fundraiser for almost 20 years, agonising over raising the parking price after the first decade, first to $6 then to $10.

In 2004, the Schneiders passed the baton to a series of fellow members. Most recently committee member and octogenarian Eric Parups worked with other members to keep the fundraiser going for almost two more decades and has supported a transition to new members this year.

‘It’s going to a good cause, and we quite often get more additional money from parkers as a donation’, Eric says.

The parking price has this year risen to $20, with regular parkers not batting an eyelid as the fundraising is earmarked to support domestic violence shelter, Mary and Martha. Serendipitously, this refuge has been a church mission since its inception by the Nazareth congregation more than 35 years ago.

Nazareth now provides regular donations for bedding that is given to clients moving to more permanent accommodation. And each home match collects about $600 for the cause.

After running in the shadow of the Gabba for 35 years now, the fundraiser shows no sign of waning. Who knows what boon the upcoming Olympic Games in 2032 may bring? Regardless, the Schneiders’ favourite Bible verse sets the tone: ‘The Lord your God goes with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6).

The author is a member of Nazareth Lutheran Church, Woolloongabba.

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

by Lisa McIntosh

The standard current definition of ‘ethical investment’ involves investing in companies that meet certain standards in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects of their operations.

But investing ethically can mean far more than this – especially when we consider the wide-ranging opportunities available to use for good the money with which God has entrusted us. For many people of faith, matching what they invest in with their values is an important aim.

Indeed, investing funds to ‘contribute to meaningful outcomes’ and having social responsibility at the heart of financial decisions are among the core values of LLL Australia’s operations, says Chief Executive Officer Ross Smith.

‘All that we have is a gift from God – including our wealth’, Ross says. ‘If we are to be good stewards of that wealth, we need to be thoughtful about where we invest.

‘As companies become more transparent about their ESG operations, each of us is able to make more informed decisions about how we can be good stewards with our wealth – investing to bring blessings to God’s world and God’s people.

‘Further, investing our funds to contribute to meaningful outcomes can create greater connection, community and purpose. LLL has social responsibility at its core. We aim to support the Lutheran Church by meeting the capital needs of organisations that proclaim Christ as Lord and Saviour and seek to show his love to all people. We do this by providing missional grants, sponsorships and financial allocations to Lutheran organisations.’

Thoughtfully considering and selecting where and how to invest is ‘both a privilege and a humble response to God’s abundant provision for us’, Ross says. ‘Each of us needs to do our research and be mindful that we are selecting an investment that is secure, viable and will serve your individual vision’, he says.

While what each person considers ‘ethical’ can vary according to their values and beliefs, Lutheran Super CEO Stella Thredgold says Australians are ‘increasingly considering’ ESG factors in their investment decisions ‘to ensure alignment with the issues most important to them’. ‘When assessing your super, considering how your money is invested by the super fund will help you assess whether it aligns to your values and views on ethical and sustainable investing.’

Stella says Lutheran Super’s investment manager Mercer Australia has long put sustainability at the forefront of its investment philosophy, with the organisation’s sustainable and ethical super policy stating that ‘taking a holistic approach to investing is paramount’.

*The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser.

With the support of LCA members, the LLL backs Lutheran ‘organisations that proclaim Christ … and seek to show his love to all people’, says CEO Ross Smith. These entities include ALWS, which invests in people through aid and development projects, such as that pictured above.

 

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

LCANZ pastor Darren Jaensch has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday 2022 Honours List. The Director General Chaplaincy – Army since December 2017, Pastor Darren has been made a Member (AM) in the Military Division of the Order of Australia for ‘exceptional performance of duty in chaplaincy leadership and development’.

An Australian Army chaplain in various roles since beginning part-time with the Army Reserve in 1998, he accepted a full-time call with the Army two years later. Released by the LCA to represent the church in that mission context, Pastor Darren will be returning to parish ministry in 2023, having accepted a call to Holy Cross Lutheran Church at Belconnen in the Australian Capital Territory.

Pastor Darren described receiving the AM as ‘a very humbling but wonderful affirmation’. ‘The sad part is that our entire Army chaplaincy team provides amazing ministry that contributes to the recognised achievements, but there is only one recipient of the award’, he said.

‘Our Army chaplains are engaged in meaningful human interactions, meeting soldiers (and their families) in the raw realities of their lives and the sacred spaces of their spiritual walk and human existence, most recently in supporting the Australian community through COVID-19 and the floods. All the while, sharing their hardships and dangers. And it is my deep honour to lead them whilst flying the flag for our beloved LCANZ.

‘The affirmation is nice, particularly for my family who bear the cost and are long-suffering, but all glory belongs to God in whom “we live and move and have our being”.’

The citation of his honour reads: ‘Principal Chaplain Jaensch’s exceptional leadership as the Director General Chaplaincy – Army has optimized relevant and effective chaplaincy across Army. His wisdom, persistence and compassion have progressed the recruiting and integration of gender and culturally diverse, full and part-time and multi-faith chaplains’.

The congratulations of the church are offered to Pastor Darren and any other members honoured with awards.

To learn more about what our Army and other Australian Defence Force chaplains do, see the following videos: https://youtu.be/RX4ZXLq3ymQ; https://youtu.be/2kFgiOIyGM8 and https://youtu.be/q0WQFdhzI38

Pictured above: Brigadier Darren Jaensch stands in the tower of the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France. Photograph: LSIS Jake Badior. Copyright: Commonwealth of Australia Department of Defence

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

by Helen Brinkman

The Bible is God’s love story to us. But how can we share his love story with those who are yet to hear it?

For 92-year-old Les John, it’s as simple as listening to God. He’s felt guided by God’s hand to help the people he’s met along the way over his lifetime of ups and downs.

Looking back at the places he’s lived and situations that he has navigated, Les says God’s pencil is writing a book to guide him to do God’s will. All he has to do is listen.

The retiree from country Victoria is putting his listening (and writing) skills to use to support and uplift a dear family friend with a cancer diagnosis.

At a time when many nonagenarians may feel their helping well is running dry, Les is using the power of words to encourage Courtney, 42, as she battles stage four cancer.

Every day Les writes to Courtney (pictured facing page inset) from his home at the Heywood Rural Health hostel about 30 kilometres north of Portland, west of Melbourne.

‘I pray every time I go to write an email to her for God to give me the strength to support her through the messages I give her every day, and he has never let me down once’, he says.

And Les says it is never too late to hear God’s will for us. As he says: ‘This story is all about love.’

‘I started to realise that God had been writing his own little book to me and boy, has he opened his heart to me – reminding me of that wonderful text from John 4:8 – “He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love”.’

Les and his late wife Marjorie first met Courtney in 2006 when Marjorie was recovering from a stroke, and Courtney came to clean the windows of their Portland unit. Courtney became an instant friend.

After Marjorie’s passing from cancer in 2018, Courtney reached out to visit Les in his Heywood hostel.

‘Courtney came and took me out for lunch and, to cut a long story short, she virtually became a carer to me – taking me out for drives and coffees when she was in the area or I was in town’, Les recalls.

Then in 2020, COVID-19 appeared, and hostels went into lockdown, so their visits to one another stopped.

Soon after, Courtney rang Les to say she’d been diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer.

‘I well remember the day she phoned and told me the news with tears and fright in her voice’, he says.

‘My heart just completely broke. It was astonishing that here I was, going into my 90th year when she was diagnosed. The Lord whispered into my ear: “This lady has cared for you, so it is your time to care for her.”’

So, Les started to write to Courtney every day. ‘I would just talk to her. As my wife had cancer, it gave me the opportunity to be aware of what she was going through’, he says.

‘Every time I sit at the computer, I honestly believe God whispers in my ear what he wants me to share. I am just sharing the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and we’ve had long discussions about that.

‘I don’t think there has ever been a time when I have sat there and haven’t stopped for several minutes to pray that the Lord will help me with what to say.’

Les, who is struggling with his own age-related health issues, hopes this story gives other people like him the idea of doing something similar.

‘I am so thankful to God that he has given an old geezer like me the responsibility for helping a girl with a terminal illness’, he says.

Les is also no stranger to writing. In his retirement, he has written and published two novels under his nom de plume, John W Leslie, and is working on a third. He’s recorded a reading of both novels for Portland radio station 3RPC. He’s also compiled a poetry book, Dreams upon a rainbow.

As for now, Les’s daily emails continue, as does Courtney’s medical treatment.

‘I know God’s finger is writing all the time’, he says.

And his favourite good news comes from Psalm 13:5,6 – ‘I will rely on your constant love; I will be glad, because you will rescue me. I will sing to you, O Lord, because you have been good to me.’

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

Why do we feel guilt, shame and regret? We asked Lutheran psychologist Dr Michael Proeve, whose research interests include shame, guilt and remorse, to unpack what these emotions teach us and what their relationship is to repentance for us as Christians.

The Greek theological term ‘Metanoia’ is often defined as ‘a transformative change of heart’. It is the turning again or change in mind and change in living that in Christianity we commonly call repentance.

And if we are to live repentance and articulate our experience of it, we may do this through the language of emotion. For, as creatures of flesh and bone as well as spirit, we are used to speaking our experience through those fusions of thought, feeling, physiological response and interpersonal action that ebb and flow and recur in our lives, which we call emotions. I want to focus on three emotions that I believe feature when we work through repentance: regret, guilt and shame.

The idea of looking backwards seems contrary to one of our current cultural imperatives of ‘moving forward’ but looking backwards is what regret entails. The Frank Sinatra song My Way talks of having had ‘… a few [regrets], but then again, too few to mention …’. However, I suspect people who endorse this view either have extraordinary foresight or more likely are not paying attention to the consequences of what they do. The rest of us have regrets.

Psychological interest in regret has been developing since the 1990s and the value of regret is recognised in business-oriented self-help literature. Put simply, we experience regret when we wish that things were other than they are. This is broad, in that we may regret the situations and behaviour of others, but I want to focus particularly on regret as it applies to ourselves when we wish that we could turn back time, and start the day, month or even years again. Regret for actions and opportunities we did not take may preoccupy and weigh very heavily on us, but our behaviour is often a painful source of regret and need for repentance. When we regret, we think of mistakes we made, that we should have known better, and we want a second chance.

Though regret may bite and ache, it offers us the motivation to look at how we might do things differently and make the changes that we can, if we should be given a second chance. We can feel regret because of what we have suffered, but we may also regret what we do because it has hurt others, and this is where regret links to guilt.

Guilt is known as a self-conscious emotion in that we evaluate ourselves against standards and rules. When we feel guilty, we judge our behaviour negatively against the rules and standards we hold for ourselves, particularly about behaviour towards others, and we feel responsible. We want to apologise, repair matters, and remind ourselves to live by the values we hold. Recent psychological thinking sees guilt as generally a good thing, as people who feel guilty tend to be empathetic towards other people, understand their perspectives, and they want to repair their relationships with others.

However, there are times when guilt is not so helpful to us or others. For example, sometimes people take too much responsibility for what happened in circumstances where others would not judge them so harshly.

When we feel guilty, it can be good to ask what we are truly able to control and be responsible for, as we cannot necessarily control all circumstances and we cannot control what other people do. We can then repair what we can repair, reach out to other people whom we have hurt and be more conscious of living according to the values we hold.

The emotion of shame, however, is a mixed blessing. Shame is a very painful emotion, which involves judging our whole self as inferior or bad, and perceiving that other people see us that way too.

Also, people commonly feel shame not because of their behaviour, but because of their appearance or because of things done to them. In these circumstances, shame results from events or aspects of ourselves for which we are not responsible and which we cannot necessarily repair.

As well, whether shame results from our behaviour or not, we can respond to shame in unhelpful ways. People may cope with shame by turning it outwards, being angry and blaming others. Or we may cope with shame by isolating ourselves and hiding from others. So, shame can result in responses of attack or paralysis, neither of which benefits others or ourselves.

The way out of shame is often by means of the opposite of shame, which is compassion. When others treat us with compassion and accept us for who we are, and we learn to do the same towards ourselves, shame can decrease. If shame comes from what we have done, we may then transform shame into guilt, take appropriate responsibility, and return to our values.

There are few more striking descriptions of guilt and shame than King David’s outpouring in Psalm 51, his prayer of repentance. For Christians, as for David, God is the compassionate ‘Other’ to whom we may bring our shame, guilt and regrets, to be restored, renewed and compassionate towards ourselves. In turn, when we can be compassionate towards others, their shame may be lessened, they can feel appropriate guilt, and they may be renewed and may renew their relationships.

A clinical and forensic psychologist, Dr Michael Proeve is an academic at The University of Adelaide. He is co-author or co-editor of the books Remorse: Psychological and Jurisprudential Perspectives, and Remorse and Criminal Justice: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. He has had a long involvement with the Lutheran Church as a congregant and member of church committees.

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

In 2022 flood disasters in Queensland and New South Wales have been more front-of-mind for many Australians than droughts. However, with more than 60 per cent of the Sunshine State still experiencing drought, Lutherans in Queensland are also rallying together to support families and businesses in rural and regional areas of the state who are struggling after years without enough rain.

The volunteer-run drought relief project Lutheran Drought Aid Queensland (LDAQ), which operates under the LCA Queensland District’s Mission & Ministry department, has for several years been offering financial and material assistance to people facing hardship in drought-ravaged regions.

However, the assistance the group offers those in need is far more than just money or goods, Vickie Schuurs, one of LDAQ’s four volunteer coordinators, said. ‘We don’t just give people money to help them, we actually talk with them about what they need and often give them help with a particular project’, she said.

‘It’s about listening to their stories. People know about the floods and we’re looking at what we can do to help those people too but 60 per cent of Queensland is still drought declared.’

LDAQ is still supplying ‘Crates of Hope’ to assist people through short-term emergencies and demonstrate to those on the land that they are still being thought of and remembered. And they are inviting people to donate specified goods in the next few months so that crates can be assembled and be ready for emergency delivery. You can find out more on the LCA Queensland District website at https://qld.lca.org.au/2022/04/19/ldaq-crates-of-hope/

Monetary donations and prayer support are always needed. For information on giving, or to apply for assistance or nominate someone to receive help, go to: https://lutherandroughtaidqld.org.au/

To support the LCAQD’s Flood Response appeal or request help, go to: www.qld.lca.org.au/support/2022-floods

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

by Matt Anker

In the 1970s seven men from the Morobe province in Papua New Guinea (PNG) left their homes to take up government positions in Vanimo, the capital of the northernmost province of PNG, West Sepik, which is now known as Sanduan Province. In addition to their shared cultural heritage, these men – like most Morobeans – were Lutherans. By contrast, West Sepik was a place where mission had largely been left to the Roman Catholics.

In their first months in Vanimo, these ‘foreigners’ scaled the mountain overlooking the town every weekend, seeking solace in one another’s company – and in beer. Reflecting back, one of those men recently said: ‘It wasn’t long before we said to each other, “We are Lutherans!” and we turned that weekly drinking party into a prayer group.’

These first Lutherans in Vanimo approached the government for land on that same mountain and built a church, naming it Calvary congregation. It is from this ‘mama’-congregation that the Lutheran mission in West Sepik has grown, as many congregations have been planted throughout the province.

In April I visited our brothers and sisters in PNG. And what a joy it was to hear Bishop Jack Urame of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in PNG (ELC-PNG) share this story. Bishop Jack had just returned to Lae from West Sepik where he had commissioned a young man to serve as an evangelist in the rugged country west of Vanimo, bordering West Papua.

Evangelist Bosco Tangi arrived at his commissioning service in the traditional dress of his tribe and, as he was commissioned to carry the good news to the people he serves, his traditional dress was removed, and he was clothed in a white gown with a cross placed around his neck. No longer bound by tribal bonds, he was now ready to serve people of every tribe, language and nation with the good news of our Lord Jesus.

In the ELC-PNG, evangelists like Bosco continue to remain the pillar of the church through their volunteer engagement in the work of God. Since its earliest days in PNG, the church has grown through the work of evangelists. Bosco’s father joyfully offered his son to the church, expressing his gratitude for all the Lord had done for him and his family. Father and son now look forward to seeing how the Lord uses the ELC-PNG’s newest evangelist in reaching people with the comfort and peace that Lutherans have become known for.

From a drinking party to a prayer group, to a sending congregation. Who could’ve imagined what God would do through those seven men who arrived as ‘foreigners’ in Vanimo all those years ago?

Pastor Matt Anker is LCANZ Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission.

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full

Anna Doecke didn’t recognise she was suffering from burnout until a counsellor pointed it out to her. Since then, she has learned how to set boundaries and treat herself with care and respect.

by Anna Doecke

It was August 2011 when I had a conversation with my counsellor, who identified that what I was experiencing was burnout. ‘Burnout?’, I inquired, having never heard that term – apart from what the local lads used to do in the back paddock near the farm where I grew up.

My counsellor explained that I needed to learn to look after myself. She introduced me to words and concepts such as self-care, date days, being kind to myself, setting boundaries, saying No and asking for what I need.

I was almost 26 at the time and had just moved back to Adelaide after working as a youth worker and chaplain in schools and churches in Adelaide, Melbourne and the Gold Coast for seven years.

As I reflect on my years in ministry, I have many fond memories. They were some of the most formative and fun years of my life. I had great friends and community, but it was a very busy time. There were many factors that led to my burnout. It wasn’t easy being away from home at a young age and I often felt homesick.

I struggled regularly in my work environment, feeling that I was unsupported and isolated and with impossible tasks and expectations piled on me. My immediate pastors and managers were great, and we would often talk through how to make changes, but this rarely resulted in any long-term helpful solutions. I was also studying and caring for my housemate who had mental illness. Life was busy and simply too full.

I was a ‘yes woman’ and this went on for about four years. I and those around me didn’t know about boundaries. I didn’t know how to say No, and didn’t know I needed to say No. I didn’t know what I needed. I didn’t know how to ask for help. It was also in the era where burnout and self-care were only just starting to be talked about – much different from now.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know I was heading towards burnout, or already burnt out. Upon reflection, and through my counselling journey, I have become aware of the signs. These include: losing motivation and excitement for work and life; feeling overwhelmed, and more anxious or worried than normal; struggling to make decisions; having a sense of feeling depressed; lacking empathy; increasing irritability or anger; feeling exhausted; being unproductive at work; experiencing a change in eating and sleeping habits, and suffering from headaches, light-headedness or nausea.

Apart from experiencing some of these signs and symptoms, I was also behaving in ways that were unhelpful, including: saying Yes to everything and everyone, feeling like I couldn’t say No, not taking a lunch break (or any breaks), being out every night of the week, not asking for help, withdrawing from social activities, and people pleasing.

Unpacking my life in therapy really helped me to heal and understand what got me to burnout.

A significant cost I now live with is a reduced capacity for work and life. It’s common that once you experience burnout your capacity changes. A lot of people think they can get back to where and who they were before burnout, but in fact we walk through the recovery to discover a new and better version of ourselves – usually more authentic and ‘real’ than the person before burnout.

I am so grateful for the incredible friends, family, and support people I have in my life. They were vital in my recovery process, and continue to be now. I have learned that by being courageous, and sharing my vulnerably with them helps them to understand me better and know how to support me. Unless I tell them, they can’t help.

In my recovery I learned that burnout is preventable, and I now work in various roles spreading the message of burnout prevention. As a counsellor and speaker with Journeez, I help women and groups to transform stress and burnout into wholehearted living. I also work as a regional manager with Schools Ministry Group, where I support pastoral care workers to help young people discover purpose, value and hope.

Anyone who knows me knows that preventing burnout and increasing self-care and wholeheartedness is in my bones. It’s not unusual for me to ask a co-worker, friend or loved one: ‘When was the last time you did something for yourself?’

My biggest learning from this journey is that we all have a choice. Often, we think we are stuck in our situation, but I will never forget what a mentor once said: ‘Not making a decision is making a decision’. What choices do you need to make today to prevent burnout, ask for help or be the best version of yourself?

One of my favourite quotes that helps me on this journey is from Dr Brené Brown who says: ‘I am never more courageous than when I am embracing imperfection, embracing vulnerabilities and setting boundaries with the people in my life.’

Anna Doecke is a counsellor and speaker at Journeez (www.journeez.com.au) and regional manager at Schools Ministry Group.

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full