by Jonathan Krause

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

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

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

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

So, Walk My Way was on the way.

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

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

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

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

Walk My Way has the simple goal of supporting refugee children to go to school.

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

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

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

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

Thirty minutes passed. Not a walker in sight.

Then, two figures appeared in the distance.

Slowly they stumble-walked toward us, clearly exhausted.

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

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

By this time, the band at St Jakobi had played its last song. Stalls were being packed away.

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

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

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

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

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

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Going GREYT! 1 Peter 4:10

In Going GREYT! we feature stories of some of our ‘more experienced’ people within the LCA, who have been called to make a positive contribution in their retirement. We pray their examples of service will be an inspiration and encouragement to us all as we look to be Christ’s hands and feet wherever we are, with whatever gifts and opportunities we’ve been given.

by Helen Beringen

Life is too interesting to overlook anything.

So says Chris Halbert, whose approach to life has seen her capture and preserve history in many forms, from football memorabilia to sheet music.

For Chris, each piece tells a story that keeps our history alive. The 74-year-old volunteer director collects stories of the memorabilia for archiving in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) History Centre which she manages.

And as one of the choir librarians at Adelaide’s Bethlehem congregation, she is equally passionate about preserving the Lutheran Church’s history of church music.

Chris’s service to both fields – the history of Australian Rules football and music – was recognised with a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in this year’s Australia Day Honours. She believes it’s critical that we not only keep our tradition of church music alive but also build on it.

‘The Lutheran Church has such a superb history of church music. I, and many others, are committed to keep this, build on it, and not lose it’, she says.

‘We have got a tradition that cannot slip through our fingers. That is why we are passionate about keeping it.’

Music has always been a part of Chris’s life, from her childhood in Peterborough and Port Augusta, in South Australia’s Mid North, to adulthood where she went on to study and teach at the Elder Conservatorium of Music at The University of Adelaide.

There is a treasure-trove of sheet music that Chris helps safeguard in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Adelaide, whose current Flinders Street building was erected in 1871–72. The congregation’s 9am traditional service includes organ and choir music, some of it almost as old as the church itself.

Not only has Chris sung in the choir for two decades, but she is also part of a team that preserves and files hundreds of sheets of music.

‘As you can imagine, there is a lot of music sung each week’, she says. ‘I was mending music this morning and thinking, “How many people have touched this music before me and used it?”. It could be 100 years old.’

Chris is as passionate about ensuring a continuation of this music tradition, as she is about preserving the history of South Australia through its SANFL History Centre.

‘The history of the SANFL is an important part of the history of South Australia. That, in itself, is the best reason for treasuring it’, she says.

That’s despite not knowing much at all about football until she met and married Sturt premiership player and Magarey Medallist John, her husband of 53 years.

John’s involvement in the SANFL for more than 50 years as a player, coach and administrator meant he, and his mother, had collected a lot of football memorabilia. So much in fact, that Chris wrote to the SANFL asking what could be done with the collectible items.

The SANFL’s interest in preserving league memorabilia led to Chris’s involvement in establishing the SANFL History Centre in 2014, which is now housed above the Lutheran Archives in Adelaide’s inner-suburban Bowden.

The centre processes and catalogues donated memorabilia. It is also digitising football content inherited from four television stations plus the SANFL – about 4800 videos and films so far!

The centre’s first exhibition in the State Library in 2017 attracted 70,000 people, and Chris and the team from the library and SANFL are now planning for a second exhibition, slated for June to August 2022.

Chris says the inaugural exhibition was a great way to tell the stories behind the memorabilia, and the feedback from visitors to the exhibition provided an opportunity to hear new anecdotes. ‘People loved the community aspect of it, and families loved it’, she says.

Chris remains passionate about working with others to make such events happen.

‘I am really passionate about volunteering in the community’, she says.

‘Everybody is blessed to be able to serve. Working with individuals is amazingly rewarding, working with a team is also rewarding. I don’t think about it much, I feel blessed that it just happens.’

Helen Beringen is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world.

Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor lisa.mcintosh@lca.org.au  

 

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More than 650 members and friends of our LCANZ family walked or cycled up to 26 kilometres through South Australia’s Barossa Valley on 1 May to support thousands of refugee children to go to school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • It’s not too late to donate! Go to walkmyway.org.au or phone 1300 763 407 to support education opportunities for refugee children.

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by Lisa McIntosh

Pastor Mark Schultz from LifeWay Lutheran Church in New South Wales is in no doubt – multi-ethnicity is God’s vision for his church. ‘We are to be a community united in Christ, made up of every tribe, nation, people, and language’, he says.

A multi-site church family, LifeWay has recently welcomed Illawarra worship centres at Wollongong and Oak Flats, and has launched a Western Sydney church plant in Glenmore Park to join locations at Epping and Newcastle.

‘Becoming a multi-ethnic church is not just about reaching out to the community’, Pastor Mark says. ‘It starts with an attitude and practice of accepting people of all nations as equal, fully participating members in church fellowship, and then living that out by all nations using their gifts and abilities and being actively involved in the mission and the vision of the church. The critical component is living Jesus’ love, which accepts, embraces and values.’

More than 20 nationalities are represented among LifeWay worshippers and 46 per cent of people in Epping’s local community were born overseas and speak a language other than English at home. The major ethnic groups in that area are Chinese, Indian and Korean.

LifeWay has celebrated more than 15 multi-ethnic baptisms of children, young people and adults in the past two years, while eight out of 10 young people who completed the congregation’s ‘Step up to communion’ course recently, were from multi-ethnic families.

Its mainly music ministry is a bridge into the local community with more than 80 per cent of those who attend representing the community’s ethnicities. Mums who attend this group but are not church members have brought friends to worship, which culminated in the Easter baptism of three members of one family.

Other multi-ethnic ministries at LifeWay include a ‘praise dance’ group; a weekly singing group with devotions from Asian Ministry Chaplain Wilkinson Hu; a fortnightly Bible study; and Chinese-speaking small groups. LifeWay also includes Chinese language, with English, on screens during worship for the creed and The Lord’s Prayer.

And in a region that in 10 years will accommodate 10 per cent of Australia’s population, with more than 160 nationalities, the fledgling LifeWay Westside church plant is intentionally a multi-ethnic ministry from its genesis.

‘A multi-ethnic mindset begins with my heart – redeemed, restored and reset for God’s purposes’, Pastor Mark says. ‘Without Christ sacrificing his all for me, I would remain lost and condemned. But he has made me his forever. He loves me, accepts me, values me. He delights in me.

‘Through that truth, you begin to look at others not as people who need to be converted, but as people whom Jesus also loves and are made in God’s image.’

Cross Cultural Mentor Barbara Mattiske from Glynde Lutheran Church in Adelaide says the local community there has also been changing. The suburb has long been home to an Italian community. However, in more recent times, an increasing number of people from China, India and Malaysia, and other nations such as Japan and Korea, have made the area their home.

‘We looked at the community around us and how we could integrate more into the community’, Barbara says. ‘And one of the main things we learnt is that friendship is one of the most important things we can offer.

‘We can offer friendship through activities for children, through listening, education and learning. So now we run mainly music classes for mums and dads with their children, we run English and cooking classes, we do learning mornings about education, we learn about being a parent, about marriage and about God.’

Rika, who is originally from Japan, has been coming to Glynde for several years, particularly for its family ministries.

After the first lockdown in Adelaide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rika’s family decided that her three young children would be baptised at Glynde. Her Christian background only involved adult baptism but, after input from Barbara and Pastor Wayne Boehm, Rika spoke with her family about baptism.

‘I wanted them to come to see God through Christ’, she says. ‘I talked to my husband; he is not a Christian, but he understood the importance of this baptism. But the most important thing was if my children wanted to have it. So, I sat down with them and I asked them, “Christ died for you, God loves you, would you like to be baptised?” And the three of them – they are little, but they understood to their level – they said: “Yes, we would like to have it”.’

Barbara says the Glynde family was very excited about the baptism and that on the day in church were other young migrant mums who engage with Glynde ministries: ‘And as we all came back to our seats … the other two women turned around and looked at me and they said, “I need to have what they have”. God is amazing!

‘And that is so much what Glynde is about. We want everyone to have what Rika’s children received – to be part of God’s family – and so that is our prayer for everyone who comes here.’

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The LCANZ’s New Horizons local mission conference program is heading to Sydney in May. This follows a successful 2021 launch at which more than 50 people attended a two-day workshop in Adelaide.

Co-hosted by the New and Renewing Churches and Cross-Cultural Ministry departments, the conferences are being staged across Australia and New Zealand, as the teams work together to engage with new arrivals and support congregations wanting to be more embracing of newcomers. The conferences aim to:

  • build capacity for meaningful cross-cultural engagement at the local (congregational) level, and
  • shape and support congregations and leaderships for multi-ethnic/cross-cultural mission and ministry.

The next event will be held on Saturday 29 May at St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Darlinghurst, under this year’s New Horizons theme of ‘Bridging cultures with the gospel’.

Craig Heidenreich, the LCANZ cross-cultural ministry facilitator, said the conferences were for anyone who ‘longs to see Jesus honoured in our society’.

‘Australia and New Zealand have always been nations of immigrants, but lately, those arriving are people from non-European backgrounds who have had less exposure to the gospel’, he said. ‘Forty years ago, around one in 20 members of the Australian population was of non-European heritage – now it is one in four. In a city like Sydney this would be an even higher percentage.

‘There is an increasing desire within the LCANZ church family to better engage with our changing society.

‘We believe this changing demographic is a good mission opportunity, as these newcomers are less “inoculated” against the gospel and are probably more receptive.’ Craig and Pastor Nathan Hedt, the LCANZ’s New and Renewing Churches department manager, will speak at the Sydney conference.

A New Horizons conference is also planned for Melbourne on 24 and 25 July 2021, with Brisbane, New Zealand and Perth events slated for 2022.

Registrations for the Sydney workshop on 29 May are open. For more information or to register for the Sydney conference, go to www.lca.org.au/new-horizons

 

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by Helen Beringen

Bringing together the teaching skills of retired teachers with the learning needs of children, many of whom are refugees, has been a match made in heaven for one northern suburbs school in Adelaide.

All it took was a school principal with a big heart, an inspiring online English program helping disadvantaged children, and a team of grannies.

This band of friends from the Bridgewater Lutheran congregation in the Adelaide Hills were retired educators who still had lots of love and learning to share. And share it they have – with 25 refugee students from the Blair Athol North Birth to Year 7 School’s remedial English program.

Over the past year, 73-year-old Gillian (Gill) Stevenson and friends Sheri Paschke, Judi Bell, Betty Lores and Julie Grierson have run weekly intensive English coaching sessions via the internet meeting system Zoom for the students, which also continued through COVID-19 restrictions. ‘It was very much on the cards before COVID struck – what has been an amazing blessing has been the development of the Zoom platform’, Gill explains. This allowed the program to go ahead online!

Teaching is in her blood for Gill, and her husband of 53 years, retired Lutheran Pastor Alex Stevenson, whose first career was in teaching before he was called to the ministry. It is a gift shared by their son Darren who, as principal of the Blair Athol school, was inspired to trial the program, known as the Granny Cloud, in which UK grandmothers provide English language support to Indian disadvantaged children. (You can learn more here: http://thegrannycloud.org/)

At Darren’s school, about 100 of the 500 students are part of the intensive English program, which focuses on acquiring conversational English and literacy.

That’s where Gill and her team of retirees come in. They help the students practise their conversational English, and share their stories and background with the children, through photos, words and books. Helping the children with other literacy skills, like reading, is also a focus.

As Gill adds, ‘God has just taken this and blessed our involvement’. The outcome has been beyond their expectations. ‘It’s a win-win’, she says. ‘The school is appreciative. While there is lots of coordination involved, they are also so passionate about this program.’

The program also has been greatly appreciated by the students, 80 per cent of whom are refugees.

The teaching team members were thrilled when they were finally able to meet the students late last year.

‘Meeting them for the first time in November after COVID restrictions were eased, we were just overwhelmed’, Gill says. “They gave us the most beautiful thank you cards and a morning tea from the school’s kitchen garden.’

Gill and her team have been amazed by the response and interest generated by the program.

‘Every disadvantaged school should have a team of grannies helping with their English conversation and much, much more’, she says.

And they give all the glory to God, summed up in a favourite Bible verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 3, verses 20 and 21: ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’

Would you like to explore how you can help the program? Contact Gill Stevenson at gastevenson7@gmail.com

 

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by Clare Seligmann

In the 20th century, medicine and improved public health measures in Australia were very successful in increasing life expectancy. However, this has changed the pattern of ageing and the pattern of dying.

Increased longevity has created a new population of people burdened with complex and chronic disease and ‘advanced frailty’. For this population, the traditional models of care, focusing on curative and life-prolonging treatments, without having concurrent goals of enhancing the quality of life for patients and their families, can contribute to unnecessary and prolonged suffering at the end of life, according to the Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine.

Many people find it hard to face the dependency, helplessness and discomfort that often accompanies ageing, chronic disease and impending death. They need increased support from family, carers, health practitioners and chaplains – and they need to be respected, cared for and loved as people created and loved by God.

The LCANZ, through aged care and other pastoral care ministries, has opportunities to serve people at the end of life in physical and psychological caring; and providing spiritual care to assist with a ‘good death’ for those in our care. That’s the ethos that underpins the service of many of our church’s care agencies, such as the Queensland District’s Lutheran Services.

Just as having a legal will plays a significant role in ‘getting our affairs in order’ before we die in terms of the material and financial, advanced-care planning has a very important function for other end-of-life considerations.

It is a journey with people and their families which includes starting the conversation about death; establishing the person’s priorities for their life and any goals that are outstanding; discussing values and beliefs and what will help quality of life; discussing specific details about treatments and symptom management; and documenting the conversation.

There are also legal documentation processes prepared in advance, that assist with decision-making if a dying person loses their decision-making capacity. In addition to a will, these include appointing an enduring power of attorney/s for health and finance matters and completing an advance health/care directive, depending on the jurisdiction across Australia and New Zealand.

A term we often refer to within end-of-life contexts is palliative care, which even applies to non-specialist care. It is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as: ‘ … an approach to care that improves the quality of life of patients (adults and children) and their families who are facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and correct assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, whether physical, psychosocial or spiritual. Palliative care also respects the choice of patients and helps their families to deal with practical issues, including coping with loss and grief throughout the illness and in case of bereavement.’

Appropriate palliative care is not confined to end-of-life care and can be provided in parallel with curative treatment, having different goals and focus. Palliative care is usually multidisciplinary and it is part of whole-person care that is not disease-specific and therefore can be complementary to curative treatment.

Again according to the WHO, when considered early in the course of the illness, palliative care not only improves the quality of life for patients, but also reduces unnecessary hospitalisations and the use of health services. Palliative care is never about withdrawing treatment or ‘doing nothing’. It requires as much work and expertise as curative treatment, but the goals are different. Access to palliative care is considered a human right by the WHO.

Specialist palliative care is only one component of palliative care service delivery. A sustainable, quality and accessible palliative care system needs to be integrated into primary health care, community and home-based care, as well as supporting care providers such as family and community volunteers.

Providing palliative care is legal, so long as the health professional intends to reduce or relieve a patient’s pain and suffering, not hasten their death. The majority of interventions given in end-of-life care by skilled health care teams neither hasten nor obstruct the person’s natural dying.

Care of the person and their family extends beyond death. Respectful treatment of a person’s remains and observance of cultural or religious practices need to be considered. Families also need to be cared for with appropriate time and space to grieve and follow up with bereavement counselling if this is wanted.

If end-of-life care is well managed, symptoms should be minimised and the transition from life on earth, through death to life in eternity, made as smooth as possible. In most cases, suffering at the end of life can be prevented or significantly reduced. It is often suffering and loss of control that people fear more than death.

The most controversial topic in the end-of-life area is euthanasia – the deliberate act of one person to end the life of another person to relieve that person’s suffering. Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a person requests a doctor to assist them in committing suicide. Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal in most Australian states and territories and may result in a person being charged with murder, manslaughter or assisting suicide. However, voluntary assisted dying has been legal in Victoria since 2019 and will become legal in Western Australia in the middle of this year. New Zealanders last year voted in a referendum to legalise euthanasia, with the new law expected to come into effect late this year.

The LCANZ’s Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions CSBQ has a statement on this subject ‘Euthanasia or Mercy Killing’, which rejects the practice in all its forms, ‘because such killing is contrary to the word and law of God’. Adopted by the General Convention of Synod in 1981, you can read this on the LCA website (www.lca.org.au/social-bioethical-questions – Papers adopted by General Synod). Lutherans for Life, which is accountable to the church through CSBQ and promotes the sanctity of life, also offers resources and information on end-of-life issues.

Rather than euthanasia, the church calls for greater efforts to improve and extend palliative care and other measures to reduce suffering in our society. Such measures have demonstrated productive outcomes in the management of pain and the care of those at the end of their earthly life.

Dr Clare Seligmann is a General Practitioner with a particular interest and expertise in aged care and palliative care and a member of the LCANZ’s Committee for Ministry with the Ageing. She is the GP representative on the Queensland Health Department’s Frail Older Persons Collaborative. She served as chairperson of the LCANZ Queensland District’s Lutheran Services council from 2009 to 2019. She is a member of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the AMA and the Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine. She worships at St Peters Indooroopilly in suburban Brisbane.

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Rev Dr Michael Lockwood has answered the call to serve as a missionary with the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP), a partner church of the LCANZ through LCA International Mission.

Dr Lockwood will take up teaching duties at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Baguio in July. His move is in response to a request last year from LCP President Rev Antonio Reyes to LCA International Mission for assistance with the training of pastors and deaconesses for his church.

The LCP seminary had been in desperate need of additional support, said the LCANZ’s Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission, Pastor Matt Anker. However, LCA International Mission was not in a position to respond to this request alone. ‘With few options locally, God provided the way’, Pastor Matt said of a funding partnership with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

The LCANZ’s General Church Board called Dr Lockwood to the role, which he accepted and, together with his wife, Naomi, and children, Asher and Jadon, is preparing for the move. ‘I am very excited about this opportunity to be part of what God is doing in the Philippines and within the region, and to be able to play a part in equipping pastors and church workers with a deep understanding of God’s word and the good news of Jesus Christ’, Dr Lockwood, pictured, said.

LCANZ Bishop John Henderson wholeheartedly endorsed the new partnership. ‘I see the call to Dr Lockwood to serve among our fellow Lutherans in the LCP and our region as a significant moment for the LCANZ’s participation in the mission of God’, he said.

 

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by Helen Beringen

Being called a ‘Ham’ may not be too flattering for most people, but for Western Australian retiree John Stephens it is a badge of honour.

That’s because the 85-year-old has been a ‘Ham’ for most of his life – an amateur radio operator that is.

What started with childhood tinkering with crystal radio sets has progressed into his Christian witness through a community radio station in Albany, Western Australia.

This labour of love includes rising at 4.30am every Sunday to host the Christian Breakfast show on Albany’s Great Southern FM radio station, which he has led for 20 years. He also started a Bakelite Radio show on Thursday afternoons, which features music from the 1920s through to the 1950s.

It was during the days of Bakelite radios, which were the first commonly used moulded plastic radios of the 20th century, that John discovered his love for radio.

John’s talents were directed into Christian radio early in life, through his local church in suburban Perth.

‘As a young child of four years of age, I was taken to the Church of Christ Sunday school at Maylands by two young girls who were neighbours and lived across the road from my parents’, John says.

It was through the church that John became involved in Christian radio.

‘Churches of Christ had a Christian radio Sunday school operating out of one of the commercial radio stations in Perth and country stations in Northam’, John says.

‘This was a live program with young people representing several of the local churches attending the studio and singing on each Sunday morning.’

While at high school, John’s love for the technical elements of broadcasting led him to the technical production of radio, through work experience as a control room operator.

This led to an apprenticeship in electrical engineering after completing high school, culminating in a 38-year career in technical education.

‘I was also encouraged by one of the members of our Maylands Church who had been a radio operator in the navy during WWII to study for AOCP, which is the Amateur Operator Certification, commonly referred to as a “Ham’s licence”. This means you can operate your own radio station on shortwave and talk to other “Hams” around the world’, John says.

‘I was successful in achieving a call sign, VK6KJS, and became an active SWL – shortwave listener. This enabled me to listen to Christian broadcasting stations around the world. I still maintain that call sign today!’ That guided John along another volunteering pathway – the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC). FEBC is a global media ministry spreading the gospel to inspire people to follow Jesus Christ, broadcasting in more than 50 countries in 30 different languages.

Since retiring in 2000, John has continued that Christian witness at the crack of dawn each Sunday, with his own 6am to 9am Christian program on Great Southern FM (100.9 FM), which broadcasts to the southern area of Western Australia.

John’s grateful for the support of Christian groups such as the LCANZ’s Lutheran Media, which supplies its Messages of hope outreach ministry’s radio spots he shares with listeners, along with Christian hymns and songs.

Helen Beringen is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world.

 Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor lisa.mcintosh@lca.org.au

 

Messages of hope

Lutheran Media’s Messages of hope radio programs are broadcast by more than 800 commercial, community and Christian stations around Australia and New Zealand, as well as into Papua New Guinea and Asia, the latter via shortwave.

For more information, go to www.messagesofhope.org.au or www.messagesofhope.org.nz  

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Christian meditation is an ancient practice dating back thousands of years, to the first days of the church. And it was part of the tradition of those of the Jewish faith long before that. There are many biblical references to meditation, from Genesis through the New Testament, with many specific mentions in the Psalms.

In fact in Psalm 1, God’s people are urged to meditate on his word – on his law – ‘day and night’.

Martin Luther, too, practised, taught and wrote on meditation. He reformed and simplified the medieval monastic model as he did so, according to LCA Pastor Tim Jarick, in his paper ‘Mysticism, Monks and Marty: Meditation in the Lutheran tradition’.

Pastor Tim, Chaplain at Pacific Lutheran College at Caloundra in Queensland, explains that Luther put praying to God for guidance first before reading the Scriptures in his model and made the cross of Christ central to the Lutheran tradition of meditation.

And yet, as Lutherans in Australia and New Zealand, many of us have grown without much knowledge of what Christian meditation is and how and why it is an important, even central, element of our faith journeys.

Indeed, until recent times, many modern Christians have shied away from the practice, says Lutheran Pastor Stephen Abraham. Pastor Stephen, who was already teaching Christian meditation when a spinal injury left him with permanent debilitating and chronic pain and forced his retirement from full-time ministry in his early 30s, uses meditation whenever his pain is severe.

He has developed his own style of Christian meditation over three decades, which draws on a range of influences including the Desert Fathers (early Christian hermits, ascetics and monks, who lived in the Egyptian desert from the 3rd century); Roman Catholic priest, Benedictine monk and spiritual writer John Main; the French ecumenical monastic fraternity Taizé, Martin Luther and, of course, the meditations present in the Bible.

Pastor Stephen says that in other religions meditation is about ‘controlling your mind’ or ‘mindlessly losing yourself’, whereas, in Christianity, it is about ‘giving your thoughts to God’ and ‘giving him control of your thinking’. ‘It is letting your mind-space be governed by God’s word so that the Holy Spirit can direct your daily life’, he says.

‘Meditation is something all humans share: a relaxed focus, a tool to calm mind and body, a place of solace in a busy world.

‘Muslims pray, but we as Christians aren’t afraid to pray or use Christian prayer in our daily life just because Muslims pray. Hindus sing, but we don’t write off all singing us “un-Christian” or an evil practice. Likewise, Buddhists meditate, but for 3000 or more years meditation has been part of the Judeo/Christian experience, even if modern Christians have shied away from it.

‘Just as Christian prayers and music are uniquely Christian, Christian meditation flows from our encounter with the Trinity as revealed in the Bible. In practice, it is a place where the Holy Spirit can guide our reflection as we focus on God’s word.’

Pastor Anthony Price, who serves the worshipping communities of Gawler Lutheran Church north of Adelaide and is accredited as a Spiritual Director and Retreat Leader, teaches Christian meditation and offers spiritual direction. He believes there are several reasons why meditation may have become a ‘lost’ practice in the Lutheran church.

‘Firstly, maybe that’s to do with the New Age movement and that people have a perception that it’s a bit weird’, he says. ‘That’s the unhealthy forms of meditation that take us off of the word, and Jesus and the Triune God.

‘I also think there’s a fear of the unknown – people just don’t know about it.

‘And I have to think about my role as a church leader. If I wasn’t really experiencing it myself, I wouldn’t have been teaching it. So while we as pastors may have learnt about it, if we haven’t experienced it in a life-transforming way, we may not have taken on board the centrality of meditation. And Luther is a fine example, who tells us and teaches us how important it is for us.’

Kathy Worthing, a member of the World Community for Christian Meditation state executive for South Australia and leader of a Christian meditation group, believes this contemplative ministry form is having a revival among everyday Christians – including in the LCA/NZ.

‘Recent spiritual writers such as John Main, Laurence Freeman, Joan Chittister and Richard Rohr have been at the forefront of the resurgence in the practice of Christian meditation, taking it beyond the monastery walls and into the lives of everyday Christians’, she says. ‘As Laurence Freeman said in A Pearl of Great Price, “Our world sorely needs the silent infrastructure of contemplation woven into the institutions and frenetic schedules. It needs the healing and transforming power that only the spirit can set free in us and among us”.’

Pastor Anthony, who had a life-changing experience through attending a retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius in 2009 says he came to realise that it’s an important element of our faith-life to have a heart – or experiential – connection with Scripture, as well as a head – or intellectual – one.

He took a year out of parish ministry in 2012 to complete a Master’s degree in Spiritual Direction with the University of Divinity. He has led retreats using his Lutheran adaptation of The Ignatian Exercises, a retreat program written by Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish Christian layman at the time who would later become the founder of the Jesuits. The program features Christian meditations centred on the Scriptures, the gospels and various prayers.

He believes the main benefit of Christian meditation ‘is to experience Christ himself’. ‘He says, “I am with you always”, so it enables us to experience him and his love and helps us to grow in faith, to grow in hope, to grow in love – real love in action as we join Jesus in his mission’, Pastor Anthony says.

‘The word meditation literally means “to chew on”, so it belongs to all of us as human beings. Jesus says, “Do not worry”, and worry is a form of meditation; it’s something that we ruminate again and again. So we all naturally meditate, but in terms of Christian meditation, the all-important aspect is, “Where’s the emphasis? What’s the content that we’re meditating on?”

‘For us as Christians, it’s the God that we believe in, the Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit, and where we experience him most centrally is in Scripture, through God’s word.’

Pastor Stephen has written a Christian meditation program with the hope of making the practice easy for time-poor people. For a copy, you can email him at stephen.abraham@lca.org.au

He also has produced YouTube meditation videos, which can be watched and heard at www.youtube.com/c/StephenAbrahamMusic/videos and songs on online social audio platform SoundCloud, which are available for free at https://soundcloud.com/stephenabraham/sets/breathing-scripture/s-pv895

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