by Lisa McIntosh

What makes a group of individuals a family? Being related by blood or marriage? How about definition 7 in the Macquarie Dictionary: ‘a group of persons who form a household and who regard themselves as having familial ties’?

Is our understanding of family more to do with shared lives and values than being ‘descended from a common progenitor’, as definition 4 states? Jesus certainly takes a more inclusive view of family, as we are reminded in this month’s Bible study (see John 19:26,27 and Matthew 12:49,50).

TJ Krause was almost four when he and his younger brother Abebaw (AJ) came from an orphanage in Ethiopia to become part of a new family in Australia.

Now 20 and an apprentice carpenter, he still remembers the feeling he had meeting his new mum, Julie, for the first time and, ultimately, his new siblings and, later, his new dad, Jonathan. Each of his parents also has children from previous marriages.

‘It was really exciting, and it was rather interesting and bizarre and surreal’, TJ says of the experience of meeting and joining a new family, who now live at Maslin Beach in South Australia. ‘We don’t call it “blended” but it is a blended family.’ He says that even though there are particular challenges to being part of a family in which members come from different backgrounds, the best element is that ‘there’s no judgement whatsoever’.

‘We all make it work really well, and Mum and Dad are just super accepting. When you’re younger and you don’t know where your real parents are, sometimes you question that.

‘But you do realise that the parents you have really do love you and they cherish you and protect you. That makes you realise that they are your real parents even though they’re not blood.

‘I think family keeps you motivated to keep pursuing life because you’re showing them that you’re grateful for the opportunities they’re giving you. A family’s always there to love you, support you, be there for you through thick and thin, and there’s nothing that can beat unconditional love.

‘If someone’s willing to support someone else throughout every single thing and be there for them through the good and bad, that’s the definition of family, whether it’s your brother or it’s your best mate.’

Blending two families and households into one challenges parents, too, with things such as setting disciplinary boundaries, territorial feelings and behaviour, different parenting styles and basic practical issues all requiring attention.

Pastor Mark and Beth Kaesler, of Seaford in South Australia, merged two households into one when they were married. Between them, they had four children from their previous marriages, including two sons named Paul!

‘It’s a funny thing when you join two families and two houses’, Beth says. ‘You don’t mean to be, but you’re quite threatened about trying to maintain territory. When Mark, Elisa and Paul moved in, there was all this sorting about what we would throw out and what we’d keep. You know, like, whose egg flip will we keep? It was very, very territorial.

‘When you get past that physical territorial stuff, then you have to move on to the emotional territorial stuff and spiritual territorial stuff. You know, like, I’ll give a bit here and you give a bit. And I think we learned fairly early that we both had to give a lot more than 50 per cent to make it work.’

Both Beth and Pastor Mark say that God’s support was critical in blending their families.

‘God is part of everything, really’, Pastor Mark says. ‘God is never absent. He is speaking to us in all sorts of ways. And I guess you really can’t put a value on all those little bits of knowledge that he gives you in this journey.’

‘I think it starts with a sense and an understanding of how much God has given you and how much God has forgiven you’, Beth adds. ‘That gives you a huge sense of God’s grace which you can then give out.’

And they agree that God is the one in their family who can best break down the barriers that members may put up for their own feeling of safety and security.

God is also central to the family life of Pastor Colin Simpkin, his wife Tanya, son Brad and niece Abbie Williams, of Grovedale in Victoria. Abbie became part of the family household after the death of her mother, Joanne, Tanya’s sister, as her father is not able to look after her.

The Simpkins say they always wanted two children and believe that God had plans for them to be ‘a complete family with Abbie’.

‘With Brad being an only child, Abbie coming into our family brought him a sibling and he learnt how to share everything – toys, home and parents’, Pastor Colin says. ‘As a family, we miss one another when any are away. We have the joy of seeing the accomplishments of the others. We have brought God into Abbie’s life and we learn a lot from her, too.

‘Having all of the members of our family now has added extra love into each of our lives. Abbie loves having a female role model and support person, and Tan is what Abbie needs to guide her through many difficult areas.’

Pastor Colin says that while there were challenges for each of them in getting used to the new family dynamics, the family unit is really important to them ‘because God put us together’.

‘Everybody needs to know they belong somewhere and that they matter to others. God is love and we know his love through Jesus, who calls us to pass that love on to our families.’

You can read more of Beth and Mark’s story, or listen to their Messages of Hope interview at www.messagesofhope.org.au/blended-families/

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Brett Hausler will fulfil a long-term wish to work for the church when he becomes the next Executive Officer of the Church (EOC) early next year.

Brett’s appointment to the senior LCANZ leadership position was announced last month. He will succeed Peter Schirmer, who has served as EOC since 2012 and who has resigned to pursue other opportunities.

Currently Chief Governance Officer and General Counsel for AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator Ltd), Brett said he felt called to apply for the role, which will enable him to pair his work with his passion for church service.

‘I’ve always had a desire to work for the church at some stage and probably the key driver is that I’ve volunteered for many years, but I’ve found that my involvement has always been limited due to my daily work commitments’, said Brett, whose mother worked as an assistant for the Victoria District president when Brett was at school.

‘I believe God called me to apply for this position and that he has equipped me well and blessed me through my work roles and in my faith life to serve in this way. I’ve been fortunate to have been responsible for a wide range of areas throughout my career and I would hope that they will assist me in performing the EOC role.’

Brett’s name will already be known to some in Lutheran circles, as the chair of the Board for Lutheran Education Australia (BLEA), having joined BLEA as a director in early 2013.

In his current position with AEMO, he oversees corporate functions including governance, legal, risk management, audit, compliance, insurance and transmission procurement, and has recently been involved in establishing a new subsidiary to assist the NSW government in implementing its energy roadmap. Previous responsibilities have also included public affairs, finance, regulatory affairs and human relations.

Before starting with AEMO in 2009, Brett was General Manager, Corporate Services at the National Electricity Market Management Company (NEMMCO), held various executive roles in the energy industry and also worked as a lawyer in private practice.

Among his voluntary church service, Brett was a member of the LCA’s reference panel for its governance and administration review, served on the Victoria District’s regional education governance committee and is a past member of Luther College Council.

While his new role will involve significant changes both professionally and personally for Brett in that he will relocate from Melbourne to Adelaide along with his wife, Heather, in due course, he said those changes would ‘pale into insignificance in terms of the purpose of the role’.

‘To me, it’s so important in life that what you do is aligned with your purpose’, he said.

‘I am looking forward to seeing where God will lead us as a church in the coming years. My great hope is that we as a church will bring love to life for those in our communities as we serve.’

A member at St Pauls Box Hill in suburban Melbourne where he worships with his family, Brett will begin the new role from mid to late January.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has so dominated the lives of many Australians and New Zealanders at home for the past 18 months that it’s been easy to forget that around the world people are suffering who need our prayers.

But Peter Gerang Deng has not forgotten the troubles and tragedies of his homeland of South Sudan in north-eastern Africa. South Sudan is a diverse nation of more than 60 major ethnic groups, which has long been wracked by civil wars, violence, political instability and natural disasters, which have displaced millions of people and left many others living in poverty. Peter, who like his wife Rebecca Manyang is from South Sudan’s Denka ethnic group, is an educator and an elder at Immanuel Lutheran Church in North Adelaide. The couple has three children, who have all been born in Australia, and is expecting a fourth child.

Concerned that local people were no longer aware of needs beyond their own restrictions and borders, Peter raised the issue with Immanuel’s pastor, Rev Dr Mark Worthing. ‘He said, “Pastor, can we do something to encourage people to pray for South Sudan? With everything else going on in the last year, people have forgotten the needs there’, Pastor Mark explains.

‘So, the next week Peter made a presentation to the congregation about the needs in South Sudan. Afterwards, people said we should do more to focus on this. Someone else said it would be nice to get families involved and make it an intergenerational effort. That’s how the “November Family Prayer Challenge”, with its focus on South Sudan, came about.’

With the backing of the congregation’s Grow Team, Peter and Pastor Mark launched the month-long prayer challenge on 24 October, giving out laminated guides so that members, along with their families and friends, were ready to start the innovative program the following Sunday. The guides were also sent out via email
and are available on the congregation’s website.

While prayer was pivotal to the program, there were three key elements of the challenge each week for four weeks for those taking part – learn, pray, act.

‘We wanted to encourage everyone to learn more about the current situation and needs in South Sudan, to pray for its people, and to explore ways to concretely help
the situation there’, Pastor Mark says. ‘We also wanted to encourage people to do this as families, or with a friend or group of friends, either within or outside of our congregation.’

The prayer challenge linked in with Australian Lutheran World Service, which supports aid and development projects in South Sudan, and which provided Immanuel with a guest speaker to help raise awareness about its ongoing work and partnerships in Africa.

Peter, who became a teacher through Lutheran World Federation at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where he met Rebecca, said the prayer challenge was helping to raise awareness locally of the ‘chaotic’ situation in South Sudan, even though the country was technically in ‘peacetime’ after multiple civil wars.

He says when people have a greater awareness of a situation, they then can pray and understand how best to do something to support people in need. ‘[We have a saying that] if you want to help somebody, don’t give them a fish, give them a hook or a net to go and feed themselves’, he says. ‘Give them something to do beyond war.

‘Despite having no war now, there’s something called negative and positive peace. There may be peace there – no guns going throughout the country – but there are pockets of instability going on.

‘I often speak to elders at North Adelaide who came from Germany after World War II. They share their stories of when they arrived here. They think they are no longer refugees but when people talk about refugees and what they face, it’s something they can relate to easily. Now they have a better picture of the people of South Sudan.’

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by Graeme Huf

The story of the LLL is unique. It shows how the vision of one person, Mr Ben Koch, has given many people the opportunity to serve God, his church and use their God-given resources and talents to advance the sharing of the gospel.

Since its inception in 1921, the mission of the LLL has been to provide aid to the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ) and its various church bodies in business and financial matters.

The original intent was to raise capital to support church development by providing low-interest loans. As loans were repaid, new advances could be made. This basic premise of raising deposits and providing loans has remained the core function of the LLL for 100 years.

We are thankful for the strong connections and relationships the LLL has with congregation members, church leaders, school and care communities, and the support of our depositors and borrowers who believe in and value the mission of the LLL.

As a separate legal entity, LLL operates independently of the LCANZ, but with the clear purpose of benefitting the church by providing loans for projects and supporting the LCANZ’s wider ministry and mission through gifts, donations and allocations. Over the past century, the LLL has helped to build churches, schools and respite and aged-care facilities, buy manses, assist mission work in Australia and abroad, and fund and administer a range of programs and activities in support of the church.

Our Lord has blessed the work of the LLL. We thank you for your ongoing support as we look with confidence to our next 100 years!

Graeme Huf chairs the LLL Australia Board.

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LCANZ bishop-elect Pastor Paul Smith says he is ‘humbled’ by his election by General Synod and has asked for the prayers of church members as he prepares to take up the role next year.

Bishop-elect Paul, who is currently serving a six-month placement at St Peters Lutheran College Indooroopilly on behalf of the LCA’s Queensland District (LCAQD) and is the immediate past bishop of the LCAQD, was elected to the role for an initial six-year term by delegates to the LCANZ’s historic 20th Convention of General Synod on Friday 1 October. He will succeed Bishop John Henderson, who has served as bishop since 2013 but did not seek re-election and is retiring at the end of the year.

Bishop-elect Paul and Pastor Matt Anker, who serves the church as Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission, were the two candidates nominated for the role of Bishop by the LCA’s General Pastors Conference, which met online in July.

‘I pray God’s blessing on this decision to call me to the work of bishop’, Bishop-elect Paul told the historic online gathering after his election. ‘I am humbled, and I am deeply aware that I am an earthen vessel, serving for Christ’s sake through faith and knowing that we share in the Lord’s promise that our labours in the Lord’s name are never in vain. The Lord will continue to build his church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’

As well as thanking his wife Heidi and family for their support and praying a blessing for outgoing Bishop John, Bishop-elect Paul also acknowledged Pastor Matt.

‘I also thank Pastor Matt Anker for his Christian service in accepting nomination’, Pastor Paul said. ‘I look forward to working with you, Pastor Matt, as you continue to serve in the church.

‘Finally, I ask you to pray for me and for the communities of our church in Australia and New Zealand as we continue to labour together in the cause of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Ordained in 1988, Bishop-elect Paul has served in school ministry at Trinity Lutheran College Ashmore, St Peters Lutheran College Indooroopilly and Pacific Lutheran College Caloundra, all in Queensland; and in parish ministry at Tailem Bend-Karoonda Parish and Immanuel Lutheran Church North Adelaide, both in South Australia, and at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at Toowoomba in Queensland. He was bishop of the LCAQD from 2015 until earlier this year when he did not seek re-election at the Queensland District’s Convention of Synod.

Bishop-elect Paul, who grew up in Far North Queensland with no Lutheran congregational background, and wife Heidi have three adult children.

In a first for the LCANZ, its General Synod met online for the first part of a two-part convention to be held across two years, with more than 370 delegates engaging with the worship and business sessions on Day 1 via the internet conferencing system Zoom.

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by Helen Beringen

To Rosemary Lange, it looked almost like a blue waterfall coming towards the vineyard where she was waiting for her husband Kevin to appear from among the hundreds of blue shirt-clad walkers.

Kevin’s key supporter for almost 56 years of married life, Rosemary stood with her walker to witness the wash of blue t-shirts wind its way down the walking trail from Redeemer Lutheran School in Nuriootpa right past the Lange’s vineyards in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

It was May this year, and the vineyard was three kilometres into the 26-km trek of the Australian Lutheran World Service education fundraiser for refugee children, Walk My Way. Then she spotted Kevin.

‘As she looked up, she said it was like a waterfall as we were all wearing the blue Walk My Way shirts’, recalls vigneron Kevin. ‘I managed to give her a kiss – made all the others jealous!’

The 83-year-old continues: ‘My wife is a bit of an inspiration to me. She’s had cancer and had both hips and both knees replaced, and she is still out here supporting me in whatever I want to do.’

Mobility issues and past illness hadn’t stopped Rosemary from cheering on Kevin, the oldest of 650 walkers to complete the full 26-kilometre walk, a fundraising effort helping more than 7300 refugee children in East Africa go to school for a year. (Across all walks around Australia in 2021, LCANZ members and friends have so far raised more than $340,000 – enough to help send more than 13,000 children to school.)

Accompanied by his 16-year-old grandson Halen, Kevin raised $800, even though a week out from the event he had not sought sponsors.

‘On the Wednesday before the walk, I was checking my email and up popped a donation’, Kevin says. By the end of that day, there were about $200 to $300 in donations.

‘When we got to the halfway mark of the walk, I kept getting text messages from my wife saying we had collected several hundred more in donations.

‘For that, I’ve got to thank the people who opened up their hearts and their wallets, as that was not my original intention. We were just going to do it and put a couple of children through school.’

And even months after the event, donations haven’t stopped, with an additional $100 donated by a member of Kevin’s vine pruning team. That brings Kevin’s fundraising total enough to support more than 34 students!

‘When I spoke with our Cambodian pruners to say I was going to talk to The Lutheran about the walk and raising money for refugee children in Africa, I received another $100 donation’, Kevin says. ‘I realised then that she had been in a refugee camp for about five years herself, so she wanted to donate. It just goes to show again that small seeds do grow into big trees.’

Kevin still can’t quite believe the wonderful experience that came out of the event. Plans for a group walk in 2020 had been cancelled due to COVID-19 and were replaced by fundraising walk efforts by individuals, and Kevin hadn’t really trained for it this time around. And only a few weeks before the event, Kevin had asked Halen whether he’d like to join him.

Both are members of St Petri Nuriootpa (Kevin’s a sixth-generation member, Barossa born and bred, while Halen is the seventh generation of Langes to worship there). One of Kevin’s ancestors arrived in Port Adelaide in 1846 after 90 days at sea on the George Washington.

‘We think we have it tough at the moment, but it’s nothing compared with what our pioneers had to do’, he says.

Ever since then, a branch of the family has lived in the Barossa. They remain connected to the land, where Kevin still works his 18 acre-block (7.2 hectares) and caretakes another 12 acres (4.8ha), assisted by his Cambodian friends during pruning season.

He and Rosemary had semi-retired in 2013 and have been blessed with three children, their grandson Halen, and four granddaughters.

Over the years, Kevin’s been involved in many local groups but is still involved in the Tanunda Liedertafel.This all-male choir was founded by Barossa pioneers as far back as 1850 and includes about 44 members from across the Barossa region.

Over his 83 years, Kevin has been guided by a verse from Ephesians 2:10 which reminds us that God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.

‘We can forget that when we go out and live our life, but he’s already made preparations for what he wants us to do’, he says. ‘We can always do what is within our abilities. Give of yourself the best way you possibly can.’

 

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by Nevin Nitschke

In the cool morning air in northern Thailand, a young woman looks at green rice fields across a flowing stream, all still partly in the shadow of the forested mountains. The lush vegetation that seems intent on blanketing her Lua community village is filled with the sounds of life. So much so, that it is almost possible to hear the growth in the plants that were once home to tigers and elephants.

Khun Daw reflects on her past and the fear her family felt from the tight hold spirit doctors had on their lives. These fears were enhanced by the closeness of life in a small community, being enclosed by nature and surviving as ‘foreigners’ whose forebears came from nearby Laos less than a hundred years ago. She remembers when each day was ruled by what the spirit doctor allowed and demanded.

As Khun Daw rides her motorbike through the valley, she recalls when she first found hope – the moment that led to her freedom from fear. Even at 13 years old she knew her family was falling apart. Her father escaped the harsh reality of his life through heavy drinking, which led to constant fighting between her parents at that time.

Khun Daw’s head and stomach often ached with pain, needing regular hospital visits. The control of daily life by the village spirit doctor felt like a vice.

As she turns her bike off the main road and begins the climb up a dirt track, she remembers the moment she asked for help, not from her mother or the spirit doctor, but from an evangelist who visited their home. ‘Who is Jesus and what is the Bible?’, she had asked.

On her climb up the mountain road, she passes a marked field. It is marked to show that the spirit doctor had once forbidden crops to be planted there. It is another reminder of the fear that once controlled them. At the top of the rutted track, she stops next to a simple building that has become the heart of this community. Only three local families now don’t have a relationship with Jesus, but even they will attend the church service she is about to lead.

As Khun Daw begins to lead the worship service, she does so as part of a team of 11 evangelists. All of them know what it is to be freed from fear. Each one serves with a desire to share with their communities that there is only one God and that he gave his life for them. Fear is fading and God’s love has produced joy, trust and hope.

Nevin Nitschke is an LCA International Mission Program Officer.

For more inspiring articles about how God is changing lives of people throughout PNG and South-East Asia, go to www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories

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Former LCA President Rev Dr Lance Steicke died last month, aged 88. Dr Steicke served in the role now known as LCANZ Bishop from 1987 to 2000.

LCANZ Bishop John Henderson said Dr Steicke was ‘a respected and admired church leader’ among Lutherans in Australia, as well as in New Zealand, where he spent a significant part of his ministry. ‘We knew him not only as an inspirational leader but also as a “real person” and a caring pastor’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘He exuded the grace that is a hallmark of authentic Christian living. We are hugely indebted to him for his leadership of the LCA and his place among us as a brother in the Lord.

‘His influence spread beyond the LCA and Lutheranism. He was instrumental in the LCA’s membership of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and became the first Lutheran president of the NCCA. He is well remembered as a significant participant in Australia’s ecumenical journey in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

‘On 23 July 2000, Lance joined Aboriginal Pastor George Rosendale in a public rite of reconciliation before the Convention of General Synod. This was well before the Prime Minister’s national apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. The LCA’s current Reconciliation Action Plan follows on from, and builds upon, the work done in that period. We are thankful to Dr Steicke for his trailblazing leadership leading up to that event.’

There were further legacies of Dr Steicke’s presidency in the areas of ecumenical relations and Aboriginal reconciliation, too. He signed the Australian Lutheran – Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 and established a fund for the training of Aboriginal pastors, earmarking the offering from his farewell service towards the fund.

Lance Steicke was born in Murray Bridge, South Australia, on 19 February 1933, the son of Ewald and Olga Steicke. Baptised on 16 April 1933 and confirmed in December 1946, he attended Concordia College in Adelaide and then Concordia Seminary, graduating on 4 December 1955. He was married to Leah nee Briese on 13 December 1955 at Jindera New South Wales, and the couple had four children.

Ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia, Pastor Steicke was installed on 18 December 1955 at Loxton, South Australia, where he served until 1959. For the next 20 years, he served in New Zealand, including parishes and field missions at Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay, and was president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of New Zealand for 15 years, after serving as secretary and vice-president. From 1971 to 1979 he combined district presidential duties with the role of director of New Zealand Lutheran Radio and TV. He became director of Lutheran Radio and TV in Australia in 1979, a role he served in until 1987.

In 1990, he was made an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Concordia Seminary St Louis in the USA.

After he retired from the LCA presidency, Dr Steicke served as NCCA President from 2000 to 2003, having been a foundation member of NCCA in 1994. He was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2003, being made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to ecumenism through the NCCA, and to the Lutheran Church.

Dr Steicke, who died on 10 September, is survived by his children Janet, Peter, Michael and Liisa. Leah died in 2020.

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By Helen Beringen

Be careful of barbecue conversations, because you never know where they might lead! Especially if you are newly retired and have an open mind about where God might be leading you.

This was certainly true for retired Openbook Publishers (formerly Lutheran Publishing House) General Manager Warren Schirmer, 73, and his wife Marianne, 69, when they met an interesting guest at a friend’s barbecue in Adelaide back in 2010.

The guest? Lutheran Church in Singapore mission director Rev Dr William Chang, who was visiting Adelaide. And the friend hosting the barbecue was Glenice Hartwich, from LCA International Mission.

Warren says he had no plans for his future in retirement but had been convinced by friend Mal Hyde that it needed to have ‘purpose’. ‘You’ve got to have purpose in retirement’, Mal, a former Commissioner of South Australia Police, had told him. ‘After you retire it doesn’t stop there, and it’s about what you do in retirement.’

So, when Dr Chang started talking about the need for a new church plant in Cambodia, which was supported by the Singaporean church, Warren got to thinking about how he could help. Before the snags were cold, Warren had agreed to lend a helping hand. This was despite knowing little about the mission challenges in the South-East Asian country formerly ruled by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, who carried out the Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979.

‘Cambodia was right out of our comfort zone, but we did say yes’, Warren recalls. ‘How does the Holy Spirit work? I have been totally driven by the gospel. My family has always been involved in the church … and here was part of the church family desperately needing volunteers to support the local Lutheran church.’

The couple, married since 1979 and 40-year members of St Johns Lutheran Church at Unley in suburban Adelaide, then went on their first reconnaissance trip to Cambodia and were hooked.

‘Both of us got busy working with the Lutheran Church in Singapore’s mission and we became very closely linked personally with the Cambodians’, Warren says.

The Lutheran Church in Singapore had started a hostel for about 60 students from the provinces who wanted to go to university, providing them with a safe place to live, assistance with their university fees and ministry support.

For Warren and Marianne, a retired educator, it was all about working with the locals to provide a helping hand, while sharing the gospel. ‘Living closely to people who are first-generation Christians and seeing the excitement in their faces, it was amazing the way God works through that’, he says. ‘Despite the leadership challenges of being a young church and the need for self-determination, God is at work there.

‘With the Pol Pot regime, a whole generation was wiped out, and one of the biggest assets that Australia has is an older generation with their wisdom and time. If we are called there, why wouldn’t we do that?’

Marianne says she has a sense that we are so blessed living in Australia, that we can use the blessings that we have in any way that God might direct us. A survivor of breast cancer for 26 years, she believes that when you are given a second chance, there is a reason you’re still here, so use it.

‘Instead of asking why this happened to me, it’s “Why not me?”’, she says. ‘Why has God left me here? That is what has driven me. God’s got me here for a purpose.’

After the Schirmers reported back to the LCA Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission, Pastor Matt Anker, on 10 years of support to Cambodia, he then asked them to help with Papua New Guinea (PNG) mission work in 2019.

But their task of helping to refurbish the Gaubin Mission hospital on Karkar Island off the coast of Madang in PNG was stalled by COVID-19.

So, this year, instead of going to Cambodia or PNG, the Schirmers have bought a small caravan and are hitting the road over the next few months. And they are looking forward to using the opportunities God will show them.

‘Maybe during COVID God is calling us to be more active in the streets we live in, with our neighbours’, says Warren. ‘We are very blessed. We have our health, and we are able, so let’s just let God use us somewhere.’

If you would like to consider serving as a volunteer in mission, please phone Nevin on 08 8267 7300 or email him at lcaim@lca.org.au

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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. 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. ‘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.

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 Ipspwich 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.

 

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