#youngSAVEDfree

In this column we hear from young people in our church about the ministries and mission they are part of – and how we in the LCA can better engage with youth in our communities.

At her home church in suburban Adelaide, Josephine Matthias serves confirmation students as the program’s games and activities coordinator and a small group leader. This experience in supporting young people in her congregation led the 18-year-old chemical engineering student to participate in a global conference of young Lutherans passionate about youth work and sustainability.

by Josephine Matthias

Last year I had the incredible opportunity to represent the LCA/NZ in the international ‘Like a Tree’ conference run by Mission EineWelt, the partnership, development and mission arm of Germany’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.

The conference involved young Lutherans from around the world who are leaders in youth ministry and interested in sustainability. The conference theme was a reference to Christians being like trees, standing together in God’s forest.

We were all created to look after God’s creation and called to share the word of God with others and support them in their growth as Christians. During the nine days of the conference, we talked about our calling as Christians through the topics of sustainability and youth work.

The conference was meant to be held in Germany, but due to COVID travel restrictions, it was staged online via seminars and a website.

Before the conference began, we each had the task of creating a video introducing ourselves and our involvement in youth ministry. These helped us to get to know each other, as did the 24-hour challenges we were given throughout the conference. For one challenge, we had to find a song about sustainability, so I wrote an original composition called ‘Save the World’. Another challenge was to write a poem. We began the conference with an online church service where I read the opening liturgical sentences in English after they were heard in Portuguese and Hungarian. For the concluding online service, we each had to bring something green to hold up for a screenshot ‘photo’ to make a ‘forest’ of humans. We talked about how the word of God is the rain which helps us to grow.

Our other main topic was sustainability and we looked at the United Nations’ 17 Sustainability Development Goals.

Our final topic was youth ministry around the world, with each region sharing about the ministry in their churches.

It was so refreshing to meet other young Lutherans who are passionate about their faith, and active in their churches. We have remained in contact and continue to share ideas for youth activities.

Josephine Matthias is a member of Good Shepherd Para Vista in South Australia.

 

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by Jonathan Krause

I learnt my first big fundraising lesson in the dusty warehouse of a noisy printing factory in an industrial suburb south of Melbourne.

It was 1986. I had hair down to my waist. And I had the stupidest job in the world – writing poems for greeting cards. It seems I was the only person in the southern hemisphere with this job, which led New Idea to do a feature about it, and Gold Logie winner Ernie Sigley to invite me on to breakfast TV so he could crack jokes at my expense.

Each week I would be assigned 50 greeting cards to write poems for. Thinking I already knew everything, I set out to change the world of greeting cards forever by vowing never to write a rhyming poem. No love/glove/dove for me … which is when my boss beckoned me to follow her into the warehouse.

She pointed to a pallet of boxes of greeting cards – returned greeting cards from shops that couldn’t sell them. She said: ‘Jonathan, it’s not about you or what you want to write. It’s about what people want to buy.’

Fundraising is all about what you want to do for others.

So, my fundraising job at Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) is straightforward. I simply introduce you to people who need your help, support them to tell you what you can do to help and then leave you to decide what action you will take.

Of course, I try to present people’s story as clearly as I can. And I look for exciting ways you can act, such as Gifts of Grace, the GRACE Project, Walk My Way.

Of course, I respect you enough to be frank with you. Show you the urgency. Explain the challenges. Tell you what it costs.

Then, ask unashamedly for your help.

That’s Fundraising 101 – but really it’s one-to-one.

My dad sometimes grumbles that he gets too many letters from charities. Other people ask not to receive letters, so they can save money for the charity and help lower ‘overheads’. I understand those feelings, especially when you help people (and animals) through multiple charities.

However, in fundraising, we know that unless you talk to people at least every couple of months, they can forget about you, donations drop off, fewer people are helped, and ‘overheads’ actually go up.

So, my job in fundraising is to balance the ‘smell-of-an-oily-rag’ approach – over a five-year average ALWS ‘overheads’ are less than 15 per cent – with doing what my 30 years of experience have shown me to be the most effective, efficient way to raise money to help people.

I’ve been blessed to be able to teach fundraising around the world – the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand and even to 500 hospital administrators in the middle of China!

What I’ve found in all those places is that people always give from their heart. Someone’s need touches them, and they are moved to help.

You cannot educate people into giving by teaching lots of facts or statistics to persuade them. It doesn’t work, because the ‘head’ is not strong enough to overturn a decision made in the heart.

The only time fundraising should be about educating, is when we try to show you the most effective way for you to help others.

There’s another ‘Boss’ who has taught me about fundraising – Jesus.

Ever since I was on the Student Representative Council organising ‘Rice Days’ at Luther College in 1976, I’ve been driven by the words of Matthew 25:34–40. This is the story of the sheep and the goats, where Jesus talks about his people feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the sick … and pointing out that when you and I do this for someone overlooked, ignored or forgotten, we are doing it for him.

What’s interesting is what Jesus teaches directly before that, in Matthew 25:14–30. Here, he tells the story of the Master giving his servants ‘talents’ – or in modern translations money – different amounts according to the servants’ different abilities.

Each day I must ask myself which servant I am. It’s a question we as the Lutheran Church need to ask each day too.

As a fundraiser, I (and ALWS) try to be the bold, hard-working servant of verses 14–30 – inspiring you with ideas, being efficient with your donations, helping you have as big an impact as you can with the gifts God has given you … to bless others as we follow Jesus as the sheep of verses 34–40, feeding the hungry, giving water to those are thirsty, caring for the homeless and sick.

For me, fundraising is a critical part of this ministry.

I thank God I have been given the opportunity to serve this way and been blessed to see the transformation in people’s lives as we work – and raise funds – together to bring love to life. What a joy!

Jonathan Krause is ALWS Community Action Manager.

 

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Despite a COVID-19 lockdown forcing a last-minute change of plans, Stanley Roberts was ordained in unique circumstances as a Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) at Papunya in the Northern Territory late last year.

LCA/NZ Bishop John Henderson had planned to conduct the ordination on 22 November at the Indigenous community 240 kilometres west of Alice Springs, but a snap lockdown announced in South Australia a few days earlier prevented him leaving Adelaide.

However, local leaders decided to proceed, with Finke River Mission (FRM) fieldworker Pastor Paul Traeger ordaining and installing Stanley to his new roles. Pastor Stanley will serve as SMP for Papunya and the Pintupi-Luritja language area. It is believed to be the first time in the LCA that an SMP has ordained another SMP. More than 200 people attended the service held at the local school basketball court due to the church having been damaged by a fire. After a procession of pastors and evangelists, Papunya Pastor Graham Poulson opened the service, conducted a baptism and preached, while Pastor Stanley led the communion liturgy after his ordination.

Pastor Stanley, 45, is the son of the late Pastor Murphy Roberts, who 38 years ago became one of the first Pintupi-Luritja pastors ordained. While his father did not live to see Stanley ordained, one relative who did was a local pastor, who sadly died suddenly just four days later. Pastor Stanley said later: ‘He must have been waiting for me’.

Pastor Stanley was also presented with the late Pastor Max Stollznow’s robe. Pastor Max was serving as FRM Support Worker and pastor at Papunya when Murphy Roberts was ordained.

A former community night patrol worker, Pastor Stanley finished that role in 2019 to concentrate on ministry duties, having completed the FRM pastors’ curriculum. He is married to Sheila and has four children.

– reporting by Pastor Paul Traeger

 

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by Helen Beringen

Who would have thought the once-popular children’s pastime of stamp collecting was still alive?

Well, not only is stamp collecting still going strong, but it continues to make a world of difference to communities around the globe through the Lutheran Church of Australia’s (LCA) Stamps for Mission program.

Since its inception more than 80 years ago, almost $446,000 has been raised for mission causes, says Peter Nitschke, Stamps for Mission national project director.

The process of collecting, cleaning and sorting stamps has been an activity in many Lutheran youth groups across the country for decades. Funnily enough, it is often still those same people who are helping to keep the program going today.

‘It was still a youth activity as late as 2006 and we realised the youth who were involved in stamps for mission were now in their 80s and 90s’, says Peter, a retired teacher.

‘There would have to have been literally hundreds of people involved from all around the country. Even the youth at Lameroo [in South Australia] are still cleaning stamps and there would be many more congregations still collecting them.’

Stamps for Mission, a fundraising arm of LCA International Mission, was established in 1938 through the efforts of Pastor Ted Koch and Mr Ern Unger, who spent 65 years collecting stamps and building a national team of helpers.

Peter began following Ern’s footsteps after a chance meeting in Parkes in 2003 when Peter and his wife Margaret were travelling back to South Australia after living in Queensland for 15 years.

Peter had been an avid stamp collector since the age of seven when his aunt gave him stamps and an album for his birthday. As a carer to Margaret, who was ill with multiple myeloma, it was a job with the flexible hours that Peter felt he could help with.

‘It was something I could do any time day or night while caring for my wife’, he recalls.

And so began almost two decades of support for an industrious team which gathers, cleans and sorts stamps.

While millions of stamps go through Peter’s hands each year, occasionally he finds a high-value gem, such as a post-marked envelope worth $2500.

‘Anything philatelic is saleable’, says Peter. ‘Whether it is mint stamps, used stamps, or stamps from overseas.’

The stamps are boxed up and sold to local collectors and larger philatelic businesses. An A4 paper box of stamps can be worth between $300 and $1100, depending on the stamps.

With all this work, you’d think Peter would be dreaming of stamps. He doesn’t – but knows clearly what good they can do.

Peter has seen firsthand the world of difference the funds raised from Stamps for Mission have made through a 10-day trip to Papua New Guinea in 2018. The trip included a visit to the Lutheran Highlands Seminary at Ogelbeng, near Mount Hagen, where seminary students grow food to support themselves while studying.

‘When you see the limited resources these people have and yet you see their love for Christ and wanting to serve him, it is mind-blowing’, Peter says.

‘We saw where they live, and their commitment, and boy it made me determined to continue our work … it’s made a lasting impression on me. If we can support them in small ways, they can do great things with it.’

The seminary is one of six $2000 projects Stamps for Missions provides to each year.

‘When I think what an Australian dollar does in places like these, we get eight to 10 times the value’, he says. ‘To me, these people have very little but they still have a real heart for the Lord, and that’s what motivates me. It’s about God’s love for us and what he has done for us.’

That is reflected in one of Peter’s favourite Bible verses, John 1:14: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’

Thankfully, Peter says there are no signs of stamp collecting dying out, with annual fundraising levels remaining consistent. And finding helpers became even easier during a year of COVID lockdowns!

‘When COVID first hit, I had three people come and ask for stamps as they didn’t know what they were going to do during lockdown’, he says. ‘I think we’ll be going for a long time yet, and while the post office keeps issuing more stamps year by year, we’ll carry on.’

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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by Lisa McIntosh

Even though public worship returned in many churches in South Australia in July, Pastor Fin Klein has a seemingly strange message for members of St Michael’s Lutheran Church Hahndorf this Christmas Eve: Stay home.

Of course, that’s not the end of the story. The idea is that each member family of the Adelaide Hills congregation will invite neighbours, colleagues, friends or extended family to their place to share fellowship, food and to watch 7pm worship via community TV or the internet. The hope is to have 50 to 60 St Michael’s members host as many guests as they are able, taking into account government regulations.

In other years, St Michael’s would expect to welcome up to 800 people to its main Christmas Eve service. Those numbers mean the congregation, which has been live-streaming a weekly service for 10 years and partners with Lutheran Media in that space, needs to take the service outside into its carpark. This year, with physical-distancing regulations still in place and, as of mid-November, increasing in South Australia, even the carpark won’t be big enough – hence the encouragement for congregation members to form a network of house churches.

St Michael’s will advertise this different Christmas worship in the community through letterbox drops, banners and social media. And anyone who would like to join in can contact the church and be connected into a group.

‘We asked ourselves, “How do we make the most of the situation we’re in? How do we use this still to give God the glory at Christmas?”’, Pastor Fin says. ‘It’s a big step of faith to go down this path. We know what we’ve lost, but now’s the time to find out what we’ve gained in the process, including those smaller connections which are a gift from God.’

‘One of the strengths of this is the relationship stuff’, agrees Music and Worship Coordinator Anna Klatt. ‘The outdoor service was an outreach event, where you can catch up a little bit, but it’s busy, so you can’t make any meaningful connections. But having it in people’s homes is a lot more intentional in terms of making connections. It also fits where we’re going as a congregation in terms of our discipleship culture.’

Christmas Eve hosts will be supported by receiving an intergenerational resource pack likely to include digital carols playlists, ideas around questions to discuss with guests, and activities and games for children.

Pastor Fin says leaders can also attend an earlier home gathering to ‘demystify’ the experience of hosting people for Christmas.

St Michael’s isn’t the only congregation which has needed to think creatively when it comes to Christmas worship or community outreach this year.

Further north in the Adelaide Hills, Lobethal Lutheran Church for the past 28 years has presented a ‘living nativity’ to the crowds which gather for the annual Lights of Lobethal Festival.

This year, with the festival cancelled, not only has the congregation had to call off the living nativity, but also an ecumenical carol service usually held in its church building as a prelude to the switching on of the lights to begin the festival.

Lobethal Pastoral Assistant Janet Le Page says that, with the people of Lobethal still being encouraged to light their houses as usual, the Living Nativity committee has been planning a static display for the church amphitheatre, including a stable and manger with signage explaining that, ‘God-willing we will return next year’ and that ‘Jesus is still the reason for the season’.

For the members of St Paul’s Box Hill, Victoria, who moved church buildings just as the pandemic took hold and were unable to worship face-to-face for around eight months, just the prospect of any face-to-face worship in their new home has them excitedly looking to Christmas.

If health regulations allow, they’ll have multiple small Christmas Eve services in the church and may use a combination of live and pre-recorded elements, as well as offering pre-recorded services on YouTube. Organ and Choral Music Coordinator Melissa Doecke also hopes to put together an intergenerational Christmas choir, with performances likely to be pre-recorded individually, then combined and included in worship.

Child & Family Ministry coordinator Keren Loffler says St Paul’s will also support more children, youth and families from the congregation this Advent through the take-home ‘Advent in a bag’, which contains Grow Ministries Growing Faith at Home resources and activities.

And, in terms of community outreach, they have taken inspiration from Melbourne’s lengthy time in lockdown, by creating a ‘Spoonville’ nativity for Advent. ‘Spoonvilles’ are communities of characters made out of decorated wooden spoons put into the ground in public places by passers-by. They sprang up around the Victorian capital this year, with people contributing during their permitted outdoor exercise time.

‘We’ve created a Spoonville nativity with the basic characters, with the idea being that the community can come and add spoons and we’ll be part of the Christmas story together’, Keren says. ‘And then we’ll have something like a QR code or link to the website on which we can show our Christmas story video or “Away in a Manger” virtual choir, so people can link in and see our service times.’

At St Petri Lutheran Church in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, the congregation usually hosts a gathering called ‘Christmas on the Green’ with nativity and carols in the town of Nuriootpa’s main street, which can’t go ahead. Child, Youth and Family Ministry Director Sharon Green says St Petri has decided to remodel its community outreach into ‘Christmas at the Mall’.

There will be a nativity scene set up outside the local shopping mall before Christmas, while musicians and singers will share carols, members will hand out 200 Christmas bags for children and families, and a group from the church will be dressed as nativity characters.

St Petri has also filmed its fifth online message this year for its local Messy Church community, with the latest featuring a skit posing the question ‘What is the true meaning of Christmas?’.

South of the Barossa Valley at Gawler Lutheran Church Christmas will sound a little different this year. An intergenerational ukulele group will provide a unique musical framework for the congregational Christmas play, ‘An Aussie Christmas’.

The group features 14 regular players, including four children under 10 and four over-60s with the remainder aged between 25 and 40, who all ‘appreciate the chance we have been given to praise God and help others to do so as well’.

 

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Church planter Nathan Hedt will be LCA/NZ’s next Pastor for New and Renewing Churches.

Pastor Nathan, who has served the Lakeside church plant at Pakenham in outer suburban Melbourne for the past six years, will take up the role early in 2021. He succeeds Rev Dr Noel Due, who is retiring after being in the position since January 2018 and having been a mentor to Pastor Nathan.

Pastor Nathan will remain based in Melbourne for his new post, which also includes managing the New and Renewing Churches Department of the LCA/NZ’s Local Mission office. While he will be sad to leave Pakenham, he believes God has been preparing him for the new challenge.

‘I think God’s been shaping me towards a role like this for a while’, he said. ‘The church-planting experience is really difficult but is also incredibly joyful and has been really good in shaping me towards this. My heart of an evangelist which wants people to hear and understand the good news for themselves is important in this. And I think also I have an ability to teach and to convey some of the excitement and the content about evangelism and church planting.’

LCA/NZ Executive Officer for Local Mission Dr Tania Nelson said she was excited to have Pastor Nathan join the team in a fulltime capacity.

‘I know God has been at work developing in Nathan the skills required for furthering and inspiring the church-planting movement in the LCA/NZ’, she said. ‘He comes to us with a heart for God’s mission, a good understanding of church planting in action, membership of the former interim Board for Local Mission and the current Committee for New and Renewing Churches and post-grad studies in mission.’

She also paid tribute to Pastor Noel’s service. ‘Noel has been an integral part of the growth in the LCA’s church-planting movement’, she said. ‘He has been a coach, trainer and pastor to many. We thank God for his pastoral care, his theological insights, his wise shepherding and wonderful contribution to local mission resources.’

Married to Yvette with three young adult daughters, Pastor Nathan was ordained as a pastor in the LCA in December 2003. He served Nambour parish on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast from 2004 to 2008, before becoming Pastor for Tertiary and Youth Ministry for the Victoria-Tasmania District from 2008 to 2014.

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by Helen Beringen

When the first flush of spring and summer flowers bloom, who doesn’t want to stop and smell the roses?

So a rose garden planted lovingly as a heartwarming invitation to a church is surely going to be a welcoming sign, and an opportunity to witness to the beauty of God’s creation.

Enter Bethlehem Lutheran Church, in suburban Perth, nestled amongst a sea of houses in Morley. Four years ago, the large grassed block received a magnificent makeover. The natives shrouding the front of the church had grown straggly with age. But from the few rose bushes hidden in their midst, an idea grew to develop a rose garden.

Foundation members Ewald Schmidt, known as Wally, and his wife Ruth felt a push from Creation’s Chief Gardener to build the rose garden in a well-used thoroughfare to the local primary school and a beautiful local park.

’The church garden looked a bit sad and it brought tears to our eyes’, said Ruth.

‘And God said “don’t stand there, do something”’.

So despite professing no green thumbs, the retired couple aged 86 and 83 respectively, did just that.

‘We took it on bit by bit’, they recall. This work continued until the entire garden was renovated.

‘As we are not fenced off from our neighbourhood, not only is it a testament to all the beauty of God’s creation, it provides a lovely wider witness to caring for God’s creation and the joy God gives us through serving each other’, says Bethlehem’s Pastor Matt Bishop.

‘Moreover, on a late-October day when the roses are in their first full flush of the season, you can smell the delightful scents all around our block. Accordingly, we’ve had many positive comments from our neighbours, even from the local councillor.’

Who would have thought that a garden ministry could be created simply from proud perfumed stands of roses? From Double Delight to Cardinal and even Pope John Paul 2 varieties, the fragrant and sometimes cheeky choices now create a delightful and welcome experience for passers-by.

And with 66 years of marriage under their belts, the Schmidts are inseparable in their weekly toil – pruning, trimming, fertilising, watering and tidying.

‘We get an old pillow and kneel side by side – never too far from each other’, says Ruth. ‘We’re not good gardeners but we like to tidy up! And you’re never too old to learn.’

And they certainly feel like the Chief Gardener is with them, as they have learnt along the way how to care for the roses. ‘We are just presenting God’s creation’, says Ruth. ‘They are easy to manage and ever so beautiful.

‘When we come home, we are not tired, we feel great. We’ve been working in God’s creation.’

Ruth and Wally reflect how the Lord has blessed them, echoed in their favourite Psalm 103.

‘It’s not about us, it’s God’s creation. We are just going along, not wasting our time. He looks after us and gives our health as we present God’s creations.’

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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by Lisa McIntosh

When Matt Schubert became mission facilitator/church planter at Rockingham Mandurah Lutheran Church (RMLC) in Western Australia earlier this year, he didn’t know what God had in store for him and the congregation’s outreach ministries beyond 2020.

RMLC, which worships across two sites south of Perth, began a church-planting journey more than four years ago, praying for guidance. In following God’s lead, they committed to support a mission facilitator position for three years and to plant a new church. But, as a relatively small congregation, they knew they wouldn’t be able to source all the necessary money from within their immediate community.

Chairperson Monika Tropiano admits to ‘some anxiety’ – in addition to quiet prayer and contemplation – over how RMLC would raise the $250,000 they needed to make the outreach ministry sustainable.

Meanwhile, the 16-member Redeemer congregation at Nairne in the Adelaide Hills – more than 2700 kilometres from RMLC – had been planning to support a church plant in northern Adelaide with some of the proceeds of a 2006 land sale. But that South Australian church plant didn’t materialise and so, when the Redeemer members learnt of the need at RMLC, they donated $50,000 to the Western Australian church. Matt and the leaders of RMLC were thrilled by God’s goodness. ‘This gift towards our church-planting endeavour in WA is an incredible example of Christian maturity’, Matt says. ‘The question that these people asked was not “What’s best for us?”. They instead asked, “What’s best for God’s mission?”.

‘The nature of any missionary work – church planting included – is that I spend a lot of my time with people who don’t initially value gospel ministry. In a very real sense, the Nairne congregation are standing in the gap for not-yet-Christians, placing value on a ministry the unconverted don’t yet value, supporting a church which is yet to exist.’

In response to the gift, RMLC Pastor Steve Liersch says, ’If it were not COVID times, I would have hugged anyone I saw. Praise God! Prayers have truly been answered. This reflects that God is up to something within our church and the wider LCA. Only he could have orchestrated such an amazing and inspiring gift.

‘I hope that Matt’s next few years here will not only bear fruit with people coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, but also in that process the Holy Spirit will use him to inspire others to be involved. We have already had adult baptisms as a result of Matt’s ministry and this will hopefully show even more how everyday people, conversations and opportunities can be used by God for eternal blessings and current inspiration for his church.’

This is the latest chapter in another story of God’s faithfulness in bringing good out of disappointments or hard times. When the Redeemer congregation was given a parcel of land by John and Maureen Nitschke in the late 1980s, they intended to build a church. Established 33 years ago, the congregation has never had its own worship centre, instead holding services in the local Uniting Church building.

But when the land was deemed unsuitable by the local council due to parking requirements, Redeemer members were led by the Holy Spirit to turn their disappointment into blessings for others. They aimed to support a church plant in the Adelaide Hills, but plans for possible developments in their local area stalled, according to Nairne chairperson Michael Gladigau and other members.

‘We wanted to be good stewards of the gifts we were custodians to’, they say. ‘The Holy Spirit moved us to investigate looking into giving some of this money to (the LCA’s) New and Renewing Churches. God is always leading us and answering prayers, as he knows best. We need to trust him. Our vision is limited. God is omniscient.’

What they learnt regarding church planting, together with prayerful consideration on how the funds would be used for furthering the planting of God’s word, led them to first make a gift of $50,000 to a church plant in south-east Queensland in 2018. At that time the recipients – LCA/NZ church planter Chris Podlich and the young leaders of Beyond Church in northern Brisbane – believed God was calling them to move.

Approximately 2000 kilometres from Nairne, Beyond had been planted out of Living Faith Lutheran Church at Murrumba Downs in 2015. Now it was time to step out in faith into the heart of the unchurched community they had been preparing to serve. But, Chris says, they didn’t know where they would establish a new base or how they would fund setting up their own church facilities. Within a 48-hour period, God had shown them the ‘how’ and the ‘where’, with Nairne committing its financial gift and a local state school agreeing to welcome them into their campus at Griffin.

The move has enabled Beyond to establish its distinct presence as ‘a church that unchurched people love to attend’. It has grown from one service to two; one small group to nine; one youth environment to three; one team of eight leaders to multiple teams that have more than 50 leaders in them; and service projects that began with 10 people serving having grown to involve more than 30 people in them.

As with Rockingham-Mandurah, before COVID-19 adult baptisms had become a regular feature of life and ministry at Beyond.

Chris has met with members of the Nairne congregation when he’s had the chance and says the two donations they have made to Beyond have brought much more than financial benefit.

‘It’s something that I’ve personally drawn on and I know our leadership team has drawn on as an encouragement when things get hard,’ he says. ‘When you ask, “Is this worth it?” and you look back on those times, you think, “Well, God clearly thinks it’s worth it”. God’s been moving in people’s hearts. Clearly God’s behind this. These gifts change lives.’

Another example of the life-changing power of local mission through church planting is occurring in Epping, a north-western suburb of Sydney, around 1300 kilometres from Nairne. In 2019, Redeemer provided seed money towards staff for a multi-ethnic church plant out of LifeWay Lutheran Church. Lead Pastor Mark Schultz says the gift was an ‘incredible encouragement’ and an answer to prayer as LifeWay wrestled with how to do mission and ministry in a changing community, with 59 per cent of people speaking a language other than English at home and a third of the suburb being recent arrivals.

‘It enabled us to get into the local schools and work with young people as they straddle multiple cultures, and employ Mandarin and Cantonese speakers to be bridge-builders between cultures’, Pastor Mark says. ‘Walking in mission is a constant journey of trust; it’s easy to hold back because we fear a lack of resources, but reminders like this draw us back to a faithful God, in whom we lack no good thing.’

LifeWay has now embarked on another step of faith. In conjunction with the NSW District, it has just employed a church planter, Danny Brock, to plant LifeWay Westside, a greenfields multi-ethnic church near the new International airport in Western Sydney.

Michael and the Redeemer folk say hearing the grateful responses from people who have received the gifts gives them ‘a feeling of joy and thankfulness that we are able to help others through the blessings we have received’.

‘We are reminded of the wonderful miracle that Jesus performed when feeding the multitudes with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread’, they say. ‘This one block of land is enabling multitudes to know of God’s love for them. We hope that God’s word will be proclaimed to as many people as possible and people will be led to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.’

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The General Church Board (GCB) has approved moves to improve the ‘efficiency and transparency’ of the LCA/NZ’s call process.

Following a decision by the 2015 General Convention of Synod, the then General Church Council (now GCB) commissioned an investigation into the LCA call process in order to hear from congregations about their views and expectations of the process and to identify ways the system could be improved.

The report ‘A Review of the Call Process of the Lutheran Church of Australia’ was completed in July 2018. GCB now has responded to the report, including approving actions designed in collaboration with the College of Bishops (CoB) to improve the process.

The general conclusions of the report were that:

  • The call process was under stress
  • Parishes believed the process was inadequate, but could be improved, rather than replaced
  • Bishops and directors of mission generally reported satisfaction with the current call process, but indicated that it could be improved
  • The call process of the LCA already allows for a variety of practices, but that neither parishes nor bishops and directors of mission are aware of the full range of variants available, and
  • Expectation management is important for the call process to function well and for the reduction of levels of mistrust and frustration.

The LCA/NZ’s Secretary of the Church, Dr Nigel Long, said the review made a number of recommendations, though overall it found that the system did ‘not require significant structural change’.

‘However, it did identify that there is frustration about the system and a process that can be disheartening for some calling bodies’, he said. ‘As a result, the review also identified scope for improvement in the efficiency and transparency of the process.

‘GCB has received the report, considered its recommendations and approved a series of actions to implement them. These actions were developed in consultation with the College of Bishops. Some of them are already under development; for example, Church Worker Support is working on a framework for annual vocational reviews of pastors.’

Dr Long said the actions were focused on supporting both calling bodies and pastors to:

  • improve trust in the call process
  • increase the chances of a good calling body/pastor fit
  • improve the understanding of how the call process works, and
  • ensure greater professionalism, and overall efficiency and transparency in the system.

He said the approved actions could be ‘implemented through policy, operational processes and provision of resources to support all participants in the call system’. They would not require a synodical decision.

GCB’s response to the recommendations of the review report is available online through the LCA website here.

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by Helen Beringen

Picture a bush picnic in breathtaking country at the foot of the Grampians mountain range in the Wimmera region of Victoria. But add to that the crunch of frost of midwinter early mornings and the challenge of chopping firewood before you can take a sip from the thermos and unwrap the sandwiches.

This is a regular winter pastime for a handful of hardy members of St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Stawell, a historic Victorian goldrush town.

Members of this woodchopping team, predominantly aged over 70, chop and sell firewood throughout the chilly winter months from May to September to help keep their 26-member strong congregation running, says congregational chairman and one of the team organisers John Simpkin.

On weekends they receive very welcome help from a couple of younger members, including John’s grandsons, Alex, 10, and Jamie, 8, who help with the loading and unloading of the big trailers. The fundraising scheme also literally brings warmth to the town, offering a great service to many community members, particularly older town residents reliant on wood heaters. And yes, temperatures can drop below zero in that part of the world!

But this country with its rolling, tree-studded hills is beautiful, and great for woodchoppers, thanks also to friendly farmers with fallen timber to spare, says John.

Since 2014 woodcutting has become a major fundraiser for the fellowship, which also supports chaplaincy programs at three local schools.

John, 76, and his team are experienced and well equipped with protective gear, chainsaws and wood splitters.

John’s wife of 53 years, Lorraine, 75, is the fellowship treasurer. Lorraine takes the orders which determine whether the band of woodchoppers sets out twice a week or once a fortnight, depending on demand.

They’ve been invited to collect wood at several properties, including one owned by a local Uniting Church member, with part proceeds donated to that church.

‘This is another way of letting people know that the Lutheran church is here in Stawell and happy to help people in the community’, John says.

It has also become a major financial support for the ageing congregation. John and Lorraine, both retired teachers who have called Stawell home for about 40 years, have witnessed the change in the congregation’s size and age profile, as happens in many rural areas.

‘Almost all of the younger members of our families have left the area to complete their education and have then found employment in other areas’, John says. ‘In 2002 the congregation had 74 active communing members with almost 30 members in paid employment. We now have about 26 active communing members and, of these, only six are in paid employment.

‘This decline has made it extremely difficult for our congregation to meet our budget requirements and so a variety of extra fundraising ventures have been created to help cover the gap.’

The hard work of the woodcutters has almost evened out that shortfall.

But their ultimate optimism is reflected in John’s favourite Bible verses from Romans 8, reminding them that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It certainly shows that being God’s salt and light in the community takes many forms. Whether through chopping wood in near-zero temperatures, promoting the Christian message of Christmas, or lobbying to restore a historical organ, God’s light can shine into our world wherever he places us.

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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