by Angela Mayer

Some years ago, God led me to work in men’s behaviour change programs and, through the people I met, I became passionate about working to improve the lives of families experiencing domestic violence.

We can change people’s lives, increase safety and help them feel the love of God in their homes and families.

Consider the following scenario and ask yourself what you could do: You receive a text from a friend, wanting your help. They have only been married a couple of years, but their spouse has become quite different from the caring person they married. They have been expected to give up work they love to stay at home; their spouse gets angry if they disagree; they can’t even have coffee with a friend without their spouse ringing to check up, and they sometimes feel afraid.

This is domestic violence (DV).

Four facts you may not know:
• The rates of domestic violence in the Christian community in Australia are the same or higher than in the general community (National Anglican Family Violence Research Report 2021),
• DV is not just physical or sexual abuse, it is any behaviour that is intended to create fear, intimidate, isolate, or control. It disproportionately affects women and children.
• DV is not a one-off event – it is a pattern of behaviour that, without professional support, usually becomes more frequent and severe over time.
• DV can affect people of any age.

Most of us have heard of DV, but would you recognise the signs in your congregation? Would you be able to provide helpful support? Do you know how to encourage a person using abusive behaviour to seek help?

The LCA’s Learning Hub offers the Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention online module which explores domestic and family violence, keeping in mind a Christian perspective.

In the online module, you can read whole sections, or dip in and out. There are ideas around being an ally to those experiencing abuse. Other sections explore how we as a church respond to those who perpetrate abuse in ways that do not silently collude.

Start today. Be ready to offer help and resources when someone asks you about domestic violence and be the change you want to see in the world.

Angela Mayer is a member of the LCA’s Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Taskforce.

How to access the LCANZ Learning Hub

Those with LCA email addresses can access this through the LCANZ Learning Hub button on the LCA Portal.

People who have had previous access to training via ALC iLearn can access the Hub using their ALC iLearn credentials via the ALC iLearn page

Others will need to contact the Church Worker Support Department (email to or phone 08 8267 7300) for a once-off enrolment key. This will enable them to enrol and log in via the ALC iLearn page.

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic and family violence, visit ANROWS Get Support webpage or call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Family Domestic Violence Counselling Service, or Lifeline Counselling (24 hours) 131 114. In an emergency, call 000.

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Pastor Richard Schwedes will be the next bishop of the New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory District of the LCANZ.

Pastor Richard, who will also have oversight of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand through a Memorandum of Understanding between the LCNZ and the NSW-ACT District, was elected during the district’s 40th Convention of Synod at Wagga Wagga NSW in March. He and his wife Veronica currently serve in St Paul’s Sydney and Redeemer Narraweena congregations.

Once installed to the role, most likely mid-year, he will succeed Bishop Robert Bartholomaeus, who has served as bishop since October 2018 and has been a pastor in the NSW & ACT District for 23 years.

Bishop-elect Richard has served as assistant bishop of the district since 2019.

‘I see life about being focused on Jesus’ mission – helping people connect to Jesus, his love and grace and his community because he offers and gives a love that never gives up and is better than anything else we experience’, he said prior to the 8–10 March convention.

Also at the convention, Pastor John Borchert was elected as assistant bishop for the next synodical term. Pastor John also serves the Walla Walla and Alma Park congregations in NSW.

– Reporting by Tanya Cunningham

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by Helen Brinkman

In the Hoff family, teaching isn’t the only thing that runs in the blood. So does the sentiment embroidered on a family tapestry hand-sewn by Rob Hoff’s maternal grandmother Elsa Sickerdick: ‘Faith without service means nothing.’

It is a motto that Elsa’s grandson Rob Hoff takes to heart. Growing up, Rob witnessed his parents’ faith motivation for service: ‘Mum and Dad were great servants of the church. Their life was based around service to the church and community’, he says. Their influence led Rob to a lifetime of service in education, a lineage tracing back to the 1880s when his immigrant forebear Bernhard Hoff was a school principal at the farming region of Monarto, near Adelaide.

Rob retired in 2019 after 46 years of service as a school principal. His decades of service to primary education, including significant service to many professional associations, was recognised in the Australia Day 2024 Honours List, being named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division.

As a young boy, Rob, now 75, says he was influenced to join the long line of teachers in the family by his great uncle, Pastor Carl Hoff, who had served at Koonibba Mission, 800km west of Adelaide.

‘My brother (Tony – also a teacher) and I would go over there for afternoon tea as young kids. We would look at his books and collection of Aboriginal artefacts (now gifted to the SA Museum) and he would tell us stories. That’s where we got the idea of being teachers, or indeed a pastor.’

As a 16-year-old, Rob’s calling was reinforced by his Pastor Clem Koch who told him: ‘I’ve been watching you, and you’ve got some gifts … I think you should be a teacher.’ ‘That sowed the seed and I fell into teaching’, Rob says.

Rob was raised in Adelaide’s inner-northern suburb of Sefton Park, attending St Paul Lutheran Church, Blair Athol. His dad’s job at the railways provided a fertile opportunity for his parents to share their faith with work colleagues, many of whom were migrants. ‘That is where I witnessed how the social aspects of their lives influenced other people. They let others see Christianity come through in their lives. Every second Saturday we’d have new Australians over for lunch’, Rob recalls. ‘They were so thankful. That wider service in the community is what my brother and I grew up with. It’s just second nature.’

St Paul is where Rob met and married his wife of 52 years, Sandra. They’ve been blessed with two daughters, also Lutheran school leaders, and two grandsons.

In 1973, Rob became the inaugural principal of St Paul Lutheran Primary School, Blair Athol, followed by Trinity Lutheran Primary School in Southport, Queensland, and Immanuel Lutheran Primary School at Novar Gardens, South Australia. Rob is passionate about the role of Lutheran schools in sharing faith. ‘Where else do you get to proclaim the gospel boldly to 40,000 kids and 4,000 staff in communities across Australia, five days a week?’, he asks.

Rob and Sandra’s retirement has continued to provide the unexpected privilege of serving and witnessing in their own community. Moving to an independent living unit at Adelaide’s Fullarton Lutheran Homes in 2020, they discovered an opportunity to serve close to home! ‘We didn’t know what retirement looked like. We were both 70 when we retired, and we thought, “Let’s see where the journey takes us”,’ says Rob. ‘We got involved in the community here, and there was an opportunity to visit elderly residents, whose relatives may live away, and who could be lonely and seeking human contact. We saw that as a natural ministry.

‘It’s easy to walk across the road and say “g’day” and lift their spirits and have a cuppa with them.

‘We should encourage people to keep going. Everybody who is retired, if they chose to serve, our church would be even stronger than it is. There are lots of retired people who are contributing in so many ways we’re not aware of.’

And, he says, it’s all for the gospel and keeps communities going. ‘When I see these people 10 or 15 years older than me who are still so enthusiastic, that is a motivation just to keep going and not to stop’, Rob says. ‘They are all using their skills and talents, adding value to everything going on around this community, our church community, and the wider community.’

For the past 60 years, Rob’s confirmation text, Romans 1:16, has stayed with him: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.’

And, despite his contributions to boards and councils, Rob says: ‘I still think the most important work we do is going across the road to simply connect with people and pray for them.’

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Many of us have heard the saying ‘beauty is only skin deep’ or the notion that having a good personality is more important than being good-looking. But do we really believe that? Do we spend an unhealthy amount of time, energy and money on our physical appearance, or is wanting to look our best simply an extension of the biblical concept that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit? We asked Nick Schwarz, the LCANZ’s Assistant to the Bishop for Public Theology, for his thoughts.

How do you feel about your looks? How do you feel when you look at yourself in a mirror? Is there something about your face or body that you wish was more attractive?

Is your level of concern with your looks about right, or are you overly concerned or not concerned enough? Would others agree with your self-assessment?

Most of us do care about our looks. Here are five reasons why:

  • We care about our looks because others judge us by our looks, and we judge them by theirs. We believe that our acceptability, lovableness, and self-worth are determined by how physically attractive we are to others.
  • We are social and relational beings that reproduce sexually. Our sex hormones intensify our desire to be attractive, especially during our teenage and young adult years when our body chemistry is readying us to look for a mate.
  • Some parents and teachers, believing that children need frequent affirmation to build and maintain their self-esteem, condition them to expect praise, to be frequently told how special, wonderful and extraordinary they are.
  • Being good-looking has benefits. Good-looking people are judged more favourably and treated better than others because virtually everyone assumes – without evidence – that good looks go with positive traits such as friendliness, honesty and competency.
  • Contemporary popular culture idolises physical attractiveness and youthfulness. Advertisers, celebrities, social media influencers, and the beauty, fashion, fitness, and wellness industries set impossibly high beauty standards. They convince us that the better looking we are, the happier and more successful we will be! Most of us respond to the pressure to measure up because our peers are trying to measure up too.


The dark side of our social/relational nature and concern for our looks is our instinctive urge to compare ourselves with others, and the types of feelings such comparisons produce in us, such as pride, superiority, jealousy, anxiety, despondency and inferiority.

And the dark side of beauty-worshipping culture is that people who will never look like movie stars, models or sporting heroes – no matter how hard they try and how much they spend – can feel like ‘nobodies’, unworthy of others’ attention and affection.

Because of extreme concern with looks, body negativity and body anxiety are at epidemic levels, especially among young people, and girls in particular. Individuals with particularly negative or distorted self-perception may be diagnosed with serious – even life-threatening – mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, body-image disorders and obsessive desire for cosmetic surgery, and require specialist mental health assistance. Having loved ones affected by these conditions can be extremely distressing for families.

Whether we use artificial means to enhance our appearance, such as make-up, photo-editing software, anabolic steroids and cosmetic surgery, or more natural means, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, we will be prone to anxiety if we believe that we will only be accepted and loved if we are good-looking and stay that way.


Advocates of ‘body positivity’ are pushing back against the culture of unattainable bodily perfection and body shaming. They encourage us to ‘love, embrace and celebrate’ our bodies regardless of shape or size.

Advocates of ‘body acceptance’ say we should spend less time worrying about the way our bodies look and more time being grateful for what they can do.

Another form of pushback is rebellion. When teens and young adults aren’t part of a good-looking ‘in-group’, they often seek friendship and acceptance in groups that rebel against society’s ideals of masculine and feminine beauty, such as Emos, Goths and punks. The trend in recent years of identifying as ‘trans’ or ‘non-binary’ can also be seen in part as a rejection of contemporary feminine and masculine ideals.

What wisdom do Christians have to offer?


The key question for us is, where does our self-esteem – our sense of self-worth – come from?

Christians’ self-image and sense of self-worth are based on something much more substantial than our looks. It is based on our knowledge that God knows us (see for example Psalm 139:1,2) and loves us. He loves us so much that, in his human form, he gave his life for us so that we might live in eternity with him (John 3:16).

How our outward appearance measures up against the beauty ideals of people in our cultural moment is of little consequence to our loving Father and Jesus our brother and Saviour. For our God, the state of our hearts is much more important than our outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).

Yet God also made our bodies and wants us to care well for them and to treat them with respect and modesty (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). But we aren’t to value them too highly or to flaunt our looks to tease, arouse or use others in self-serving ways. If we do these things, our looks become a distraction, a stumbling block, an idol that leads us and others into sin (Matthew 6:21;25–34).

God’s word speaks to us not just about our own looks but about our attitudes to others’ looks as well. We aren’t to covet others’ looks (Exodus 20:17), put others down because of their looks, or make rash or unfair assumptions about others based on their looks (James 4:11,12; 1 Peter 2:1).

The evil one is at work in our culture trying to shape us and use us in ways that turn us against God and his way for us (Ephesians 6:10–12) and which pit us against each other. Let us be alert to the presence of the evil one and wary of his influence, especially when he tells us that we aren’t good-looking enough or that others aren’t good-looking enough to be loved.

Lord, fill us with the assurance of your unconditional love. Help us remember that other people are made in your image and loved by you too.

Nick Schwarz is the LCANZ’s Assistant to the Bishop for Public Theology.

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by Helen Brinkman

There’s special symbolism in a small wooden Christmas tree sitting in the local Lutheran church in the regional Victorian town of Nhill.

Not only does it remind us of the birth of Jesus Christ, but this tree’s peculiar decorations also remind us of the new life Jesus brings. This is because the adornments completely covering the tree’s trunk and boughs are damaged, used postage stamps.

These stamps have been given a new life on the tree lovingly decorated by 80-year-old Fay Sanders and built decades ago by her late husband Alf, both members of St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Nhill.

Each stamp on the tree is damaged, so it can’t be included in the bundles of 103 stamps Fay sends off to raise funds for the LCANZ’s Stamps for Mission program. These stamps are among tens of thousands collected by Fay since she was 15 years old.

For more than 60 years, Fay has collected, cleaned and bundled stamps from Australia and overseas which have been donated by individuals and businesses to support the church’s mission work. The program has raised more than $500,000 through the sale of stamps to collectors.

Fay started cleaning stamps to lend a helping hand to St Paul’s ladies’ guild while she was in high school. When she left school at 15 to help her bedridden mother manage her rheumatoid arthritis, stamp cleaning became a great hobby to suit her lifestyle.

‘It’s something I could do at home while looking after Mum and now it’s something I can do inside when the weather’s hot’, Fay says.

It wasn’t long before Fay asked her mum and two younger brothers on her family’s farm at Lorquon, north of Nhill, to help clean and bundle the stamps.

Fay recalls that her stamp recycling efforts also helped Nhill clinch a Tidy Town award during her high school days as her unique recycling endeavours gave the town extra points!

And the hobby continued after Fay’s marriage to Alf in 1967, and while raising their three boys. The family has since expanded to include a granddaughter and two grandsons.

Fay’s favourite stamps are brightly coloured ones depicting animals, birds and exotic scenery from neighbouring regions such as Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Christmas Island. Her preference will always be stamps that aren’t peel-and-stick, ‘I like the ones where you used to lick them and stick them on’, she says.

She would soak the stamps, drip-dry them, then lay them on a tea towel. The cat has been known to walk off with stamps stuck to its paws.

Even to this day, she’s still collecting, despite a drop in the quantity of stamps – and the quality, she says, not being a fan of self-sticking stamps. She even wrote a letter to Australia Post: ‘I told them I wasn’t impressed. They wrote back saying they were working on ways to improve them.’

In support of the program, several local Nhill shopkeepers still save stamps, which are collected by one of Fay’s sons for her to clean and sort, with the help of Fay’s cousin Bev Hobbs, a fellow St Paul’s parishioner. This included one surprisingly large box full of old stamps donated anonymously that took a month to sort – ‘I was going morning to night, cleaning’, Fay says.

Fay also keeps up with the philatelic news of the day through Australia Post’s stamp bulletin, to find out what kind of stamps are coming out.

She remains living independently with family help, supported by a walking frame and regular home care.

The stamp-laden Christmas tree continues to promote the work of Stamps for Mission projects in PNG, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia. It was originally created for the St Paul’s congregation’s annual Christmas Tree Festival, which started in 1999 and emulated a similar festival at the Lutheran congregation in Rainbow, Victoria (see Going Greyt, The Lutheran, September 2019).

‘My husband made the tree frame for me before he went on a four-wheel drive trip’, Fay recalls. She then set to work decorating it, using only the damaged stamps that didn’t have any monetary value. ‘In the kitchen, I had the whole table to myself – a week later when he returned it was done.’

The tree joined the ranks of 50 to 60 tree displays in the 1999 festival under the theme ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ (no Santas allowed!). To this day, the beautiful tree bearing damaged stamps stands at the church as a reminder that God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).

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With the Lutheran Church of New Zealand (LCNZ) unable to elect a bishop at its 2023 Convention of Synod, the LCANZ’s College of Bishops has asked the NSW and ACT District to provide oversight for the LCNZ until the next synod in two years.

Leaders from the NSW District Church Council and the LCNZ Council of Synod have met twice, agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) of how this would work and approved the arrangement.

The MOU states that the NSW and ACT bishop will make a two-week visiting tour of all New Zealand churches twice yearly and provide other oversight by email, phone calls and internet meetings from NSW.

The two tours will coincide with the New Zealand Church Workers Conferences and two of the Council of Synod meetings.

The LCNZ assistant bishop will cover other occasional events, such as special anniversaries, the installation of pastors and pastoral care intervention.

NSW and ACT Bishop Robert Bartholomaeus has completed one trip around the 14 New Zealand churches, including meeting with pastors and leaders. He also attended the LCNZ Church Worker Conference, where people shared their learnings of mission and ministry.

Bishop Robert said he saw many things on his tour that would be useful learnings for the NSW and ACT District. He has also shared experiences from the NSW and ACT District with several New Zealand leaders.

LCNZ Bishop Emeritus Mark Whitfield said the agreement reflected a Māori proverb or whakataukī. ‘Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourouka ora ai te iwi – which translates to “with your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive”’.

Bishop Robert, who served as a pastor in New Zealand from 1983 until 2001, said: ‘This whakataukī encapsulates the notion that while working in isolation might result in survival, working together can take people beyond survival and onto prosperity. It is with this expectation that the Lutheran Church of New Zealand and the NSW and ACT District are working together.

‘May God continue to bless our two districts as we share our “food baskets” – the gifts and capacities God has blessed each district with – so that the gospel may flourish and the people who receive it may thrive. May this partnership of love and support in ministry be a mutual blessing.’

Whakapaingia te Atua e whakamine nei i a tātou. Whakamoemititia te Atua kua kotahi nei tātou. Blessed be God who calls us together. Praise to God who makes us one people’, Bishop Emeritus Mark said.

This story is adapted from one first published in the NSW and ACT District magazine Contact.

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by Erin Kerber

Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described Christian community as ‘not an ideal we have to realise, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate’.

‘The more clearly we learn to recognise that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it’, he said.

In this broken and often individualistic world, Bonhoeffer’s words may seem unrealistic. That is until we hear a story like Khun Dye’s, a young mother and wife living in Ban Huay Pong village in northern Thailand.

Along with most of her community, Khun Dye believed that the physical and spiritual worlds were intertwined. She understood that the spirits of her deceased ancestors would reward her if she remembered them with offerings and punish her if she failed to do so. These guardian spirits could be appeased by offering food, money and belongings through the medium of a doctor spirit.

The pressure to give substantial offerings to the doctor spirit greatly impacted Khun Dye’s family. They struggled to have enough for their daily lives and became fearful of the response from their deceased ancestors as what they could offer diminished. But the Holy Spirit was making himself known to Khun Dye. After becoming the first Christian in Ban Huay Pong, Khun Dye’s aunty showed her the movie Jesus. What touched Khun Dye most was how Jesus healed sick people and prayed for them, and how he helped the disabled and most vulnerable.

Presbyterian missionaries from Korea placed a sign in Khun Dye’s village, with words about Jesus. When she became sick, Khun Dye remembered the Jesus from the movie and the sign. Instead of giving sacrifices, she prayed for healing from God. She was healed, Jesus began to dwell in her heart. At that time, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thailand evangelist Khun Pim was making regular visits to the village. Khun Dye sought out Khun Pim to ask about this powerful God who would heal without sacrifices.

About eight years ago, Khun Dye was baptised.

The night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed to his Father for his disciples. It was not a prayer for great faith or courage. It was a prayer for unity – not only for his current disciples but for all his disciples to come. Jesus knew our ability to love one another, and work together, would be the greatest challenge to the credibility of our witness and the advance of his kingdom on earth.

Khun Dye’s story is about a true Christian community who, despite differences in faith practice and theology, are bound together in Christ. As the Holy Spirit worked through their simple actions and humble service, Khun Dye encountered Jesus’ transforming love, peace and grace.

Erin Kerber is LCA International Mission Program Officer.

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Nine months after floods devastated the community around the Central West New South Wales town of Forbes last November, including inundating their 90-year-old church building, members of the Lutheran congregation finally returned ‘home’.

On 27 August, St John’s Lutheran Church was reopened, rededicated and blessed during a worship service led by Pastor James Leach, who described the occasion as a homecoming.

‘Homes provide shelter. Safety, warmth. A place to sit and rest. Eat. Talk. Share. A place to work. To play. To make things and to make memories’, Pastor James said in his sermon. ‘And this building that we are gathered in is no exception.

‘But this building has an additional purpose: it is to be the light of Christ to this town. St John’s Lutheran Church, a light to Forbes. This building has the purpose of forming God’s people into bearers of God’s light so that those who witness our light will give glory to God.’

Congregational chairperson Michelle Mahlo said it was ‘such a good feeling’ to be back at St John’s spiritual home after months of worshipping in members’ homes.

‘Looking at our church and hall today we are grateful for the fact that it looks the same as before. However, we can see that it has been refreshed and invigorated’, Michelle said, citing the ‘excellent support’ of the LCANZ and LCA Insurance, as well as the local restoration team.

In November, with ‘some expectation of a flood event occurring’, some items had been removed from the church and the organ was lifted onto pews. But, Michelle said, ‘at the last opportunity available with minutes to spare’, the State Emergency Service was called upon to sandbag the church.

After 200mm of floodwaters came through the building, it was declared unsafe due to contaminants on the walls and floors and from under the floors. Restoration work began in May.

LCANZ members supported the Forbes community through prayers and donations to a special flood appeal for the region.

At the same time, during the height of the crisis, Pastor James, his wife Adele and others from the Central West Lutheran Parish listened to and talked with people worst hit by the emergency, and took them home-cooked meals, other food and drinks, gift cards, tracts and other items they needed.

However, living through the floods was also a struggle for the Lutheran family there. ‘In these last months, we faced obstacles’, Pastor James said. ‘The first obstacle was coming into the church on the days after the flooding and seeing all the mud and filth throughout the building … and just knowing that this was a bigger job than any of us were going to be able to do on our own.

‘We knew though that the bigger and more important task for the church at this time was to be in the community.

‘Other obstacles arose, and through each of those obstacles God provided what we needed and so much more. God indeed seemed determined to get this restoration done – but for what purpose?

‘There are a few really good reasons, but the one that sticks out the most today is because this is our home. It’s the place God has given us where we can come and receive shelter from the things that get on top of us in our lives. It’s a place where we can come and receive the warmth of God’s forgiveness and love. It’s a place where we can be refreshed to go back into our lives with refocused energy to love the world around us.’

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by Rachel Koopmans

The warble of native birds, the rustling of nature, the sigh of a light breeze… these are the sounds that brush my ears when at last I make contact with Margaret Curnow.

She’s on Queensland’s Moreton Island with her grandchildren, whose unfledged voices sweep and wheel into our conversation and away again, like the cormorants who dot the bay. It’s fitting that I’ve found her in nature, a bird of paradise perfectly at home in the wild.

Margaret’s a hard woman to catch; possibly more so since a distant King formally acknowledged what her loved ones already know about her: a life of service, given passionately and given freely. ‘We were raised to be carers, workers, servants; steeped in Lutheran tradition’, she confirms. Tenets that seem at odds with her free-spirited nature but aren’t.

The Order of Australia recognises and celebrates people for distinguished and conspicuous service. Notably, the majority of recipients in the General Division this year were women, a first since the award was established in 1975.

Margaret is from that generation of women who were forced to resign from work once they married, but she married a visionary man of faith who encouraged her in her teaching vocation – her late husband Bill also had an AM, awarded for service to the construction industry, support of collaborative research and as an educator in 2010. Margaret’s OAM is for service to Special Education, and to the community.

Born in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to missionary parents, she preferred the freedom of the jungle to the rigours of homeschooling, running wild on the island of Umboi where her father, Vic Neumann, was plantation manager at Gizarum and master of the mission vessel Umboi 2.

Margaret describes her childhood as ‘idyllic’, the kind one reads about in the Enid Blyton-style stories of old; a dream that perhaps no longer exists. When she moved with her family to Australia at age 11, she could neither read nor write and spoke Pidgin with a smattering of English.

She was badly behaved.

‘They put me in a Prep class with the babies – I was very naughty, I didn’t want to know what they were teaching, and I was teased for being a dunce’, Margaret shares. The transition was tough, with a lot of tears. ‘I cried every night for a long time’, she confesses.

While primary school was tough, Margaret eventually went to St Peters Lutheran College at Indooroopilly in suburban Brisbane on a scholarship, where she flourished. A teaching degree was the affordable option; she excelled at practical teaching. Despite the work ban caused by her marriage to Bill, Margaret found her way into Special Education, teaching at the State School for Spastic Children New Farm, and later at Inala Special School (as they were known then) – both in the Brisbane suburbs. Her own schooling challenges informed her work. ‘I know what it is to struggle to understand’, she explains. ‘I could relate to those children.’

At Inala, she worked with teens who were unable to participate in a standard curriculum, teaching them to read and communicate using phonetics. A stint in Victoria included time as assistant to the Master at Geelong Grammar, caring for children with disabilities and learning difficulties.

In between her work and raising a family, the love and care shown Margaret by St Peters was also returned in spades: she and Bill reinvested that love via service to the old scholar’s association for 44 years. In 2008 the college’s Curnow House was named in their honour. Bill was appointed patron for a time, a position Margaret assumed when he died in 2022.

His passing has been tough. ‘We were a team – we worked perfectly together. After 58 years of marriage, I’m not used to being alone’, she shares.

These days Margaret lives in Toowoomba, in Queensland’s Darling Downs, in a house Bill designed. She attends Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. ‘I’m a firm believer that if everyone followed the Ten Commandments, the world really would be a better place’, she asserts.

Her colourful dress, glasses and accessories are an outward expression of a vivacious and joy-filled passion for life. ‘I guess I’m colourful because of PNG’, Margaret explains. Colourful and still a little wild, infused with the liberation of those early years.

It was in PNG that Margaret first learned to understand herself as a lovingly created child of God, set free to serve others. Perhaps that’s why there’s been such joy in her vocation because she knows that real freedom comes from both understanding and being understood.

Rachel Koopmans serves as Communications Advisor for the LCANZ’s Queensland District. This story first appeared under the title ‘In from the Wild: Margaret Curnow Makes the King’s Birthday Honours List’ in the Queensland eNews.

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by Nathan Hedt

Do you long to see your local congregation playing a vital role in growing God’s kingdom? Would you love to see new people coming to faith in Jesus through your local church? Do you sense the call of God to be more focused on reaching out beyond your church walls and programs into the community with the gospel?

If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, please read on. I know that these characteristics of a vibrant, thriving church can seem like a distant reality. We can all feel discouraged sometimes about having too little time, energy or know-how to play a role in the Great Commission with our faith family.

A congregational pastor contacted me recently lamenting the lack of a mission heart and asking questions like the ones above. ‘But where would we even begin if we wanted to become more outwardly focused?’ he asked.

I think my reply might have surprised him. It wasn’t about a new outreach program or mission group – or even about doing anything visible. It was about whether there were people praying for these things in the local congregation.

I’m convinced that the first step in vibrant, joyful mission is learning from what Jesus said in Luke 10:2. Mission doesn’t begin in action, getting out there and doing something. It begins in the heart of God. In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 local missionaries to proclaim the kingdom of God. He says to them in this passage, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few … so go!’

Hang on a minute! That’s an intentional misquote, isn’t it?

In fact, those words are more like what I would have said if I were Jesus: ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. There’s no time to waste; get your skates on and get moving. There’s not many of you and there’s a lot of work to do! So GO!’

But what Jesus actually says is unexpected and surprising. ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. So pray. Pray to the Lord of the harvest, beg him to send out workers into his harvest fields.’ The word he uses has the meaning of ‘plead with, beg, ask urgently’ for God to send out harvest workers.

The praying precedes the going. The command (and invitation) to pray precedes the command and invitation to go. Prayer is a vital foundation for mission.

One of the best definitions of prayer that I have heard comes from Queensland District Bishop Mark Vainikka: ‘Prayer is being present to the presence of God.’

Prayer comes first. In mission and in our life as Christians, prayer – as a relationship with God – is foundational to everything else we do.

By prayer, I don’t just mean laying a ‘shopping list’ of requests before God. Prayer is first and foremost about a relationship. Prayer is about being present to the presence of God, deepening the relationship of intimacy with the Father, conversing and listening to the Spirit, and walking with Jesus. In prayer, we receive a heart that beats in time with God’s heart of love for a lost and broken world.

Out of this intimacy with God will grow forms of prayer such as:

  • Worship: reverencing and adoring God for who he is
  • Petition: asking God to provide good gifts for his children and the world
  • Intercession: praying deeply for the needs of others and ‘standing in the gap’ for them
  • Thanksgiving: giving thanks and praise to God for his good gifts and what he has done
  • Confession: bringing our sins and failings in honesty before our loving and forgiving God
  • Repentance: a turning away from everything that breaks intimacy with God and brings harm to us or others and
  • Contemplative prayer (simply sitting silently enjoying the presence of God).

So, first, pray. Everything begins with prayer. As Paul wrote to the Colossian church: ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful’ (Colossians 4:2).

Or, as we see the early church doing in Acts 2:42–47: ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ And what was the result of this? ‘The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved!’

In Acts 6:4 we hear the apostles saying, ‘… we will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word’.

 Talking about prayer can often lead us to feel guilty that our prayer life is not what it should be. It can be seen as a burden, just another thing we must do, especially when it comes to intercessory prayer.

But our life of prayer is not a demand – it’s an invitation! The Triune God graciously invites us deeper into his life, his heart, his love, his joy, his peace. Remember that prayer is primarily about relationship, not about doing things! God meets you where you are at in prayer! Jesus is interceding for you! The Holy Spirit is translating your perhaps fumbling attempts at prayer! The Father’s heart rejoices to have you bask in his presence!

Truly, if you dwell in God’s presence in faith, you can’t get prayer ‘wrong’.

Like all relationships, prayer requires an investment of time. Jesus often withdrew from his ministry among the crowds to pray – that is, to dwell in the presence of his heavenly Father. Prayer can involve specific action – perhaps putting petitions, intercessions, repentance etc, in words to God, silently or spoken aloud; or putting aside time for these aspects of prayer. But this is action that comes out of identity. It is doing that comes out of being.


In this spirit of invitation deeper into the life and joy of God, the Local Mission department calls the LCANZ to a specific and intentional annual Season of Prayer.

We invite you and your congregation to join the Season of Prayer, and to pray specifically for spiritual revival, hope and joy in our church, for the mission call of our local congregations, for new people to come to see Jesus, and for God to raise up and send out harvest workers into the plentiful fields of people in Australia and New Zealand who don’t know Jesus yet.

The Season of Prayer is set aside for two weeks from 10 to 24 September. However, our hope and prayer is that this will be a catalyst for an ongoing life of deepening prayer in our churches.

Some people may be moved by the Holy Spirit to take up the spiritual discipline of fasting along with the season of prayer. Some may want to get together with others to intercede specifically for their congregation and community. Some may want to use prayer resources in their family or small group. Some may take the invitation to pray alone. And you can read individual reflections shared on these pages.

Resources are being provided for various aspects of the Season of Prayer, including material to be used in public worship on the three Sundays of the season.

Testimonies and encouragements will come from real people who have experienced the power of prayer in real ways. Themed devotional resources are also being made available for families and individuals and others themed on intercessory prayer will be offered aimed at congregations and communities who are praying for God to send harvest workers and that they themselves will be revived and refreshed and joyful in their mission.

You can find these at

Pastor Nathan Hedt is LCANZ Pastor for New and Renewing Churches.

For more information, contact Local Mission on 08 8267 7300 or at 

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