A fruitful beginning

Seven years after his first visit, Michael (also known as Mick) Hauser will soon return to the coastal city of Lae, in Papua New Guinea. His return will complete one cycle of learning for Michael, just as a new one begins.

In 2008 Michael was a participant in a study tour to Papua New Guinea. In Lae the group stayed in a guesthouse where Glenice Hartwich was also staying.

Glenice remembers meeting Michael, ‘It was on the steps of the guesthouse. We talked about volunteering, and Mick asked me if there were opportunities for volunteering through the LCA. I was able to tell him that, yes, there were. The following year he was off on a three-week trip to Sabah, in Malaysia, as an LCA volunteer.’

When Michael returns to Papua New Guinea, he will do so as a lay theologian, appointed to serve at the Martin Luther Seminary (initially for two years) as a lecturer in systematic theology and historical studies. His appointment is part of the LCA’s 129-year ongoing partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG).

Martin Luther Seminary in Lae is the English-language seminary for ELCPNG and the Good New Lutheran Church (a Lutheran synod with links to the United States). The ELCPNG’s offices are in Lae and it operates two other seminaries: Ogelbeng Seminary in Mount Hagen, and Senior Flierl Seminary in Logaweng, Finschhafen. The language of instruction at Ogelbeng and Logaweng is Pidgin.

Martin Luther Seminary trains pastors and laypeople (both men and women) for service in both synods and also educates students from the Philippines. The principal is Dr Michael Wan Rapulga. Dr Rapulga received a scholarship from the LCA to complete his doctoral studies at ALC. In 2014 another Martin Luther Seminary lecturer, Rev Emmanuel Som Yalamu, gained his Masters of Theology degree at ALC, also as a recipient of an LCA scholarship.

Long-term missionary and LCA pastor Greg Schiller is a former lecturer at Martin Luther Seminary, but now serves at Ogelbeng Seminary. Former missionary Rev Con Eckermann, who also taught at Martin Luther, is remembered through a number of carved panels decorating the seminary chapel. Many Australians have served as part-time or short-term lecturers (most recently, Rev Roger Whittall as a volunteer lecturer) or as volunteers in its library.

Michael’s story begins much earlier than 2008. He describes his background: ‘I was born into a very German Lutheran background, on both sides of the family. I was educated at every turn by Lutheran institutions: Faith Lutheran College at Redlands, St Peters College Indooroopilly and then Australian Lutheran College (ALC).’

But as a young adult he strayed away from matters of faith. He eventually returned to Lutheran schools, as a residential supervisor at Yirara College in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and then at his old school, St Peters College.

Mick tells his story: ‘The how of God’s guidance is always a mystery to me; just like the sower in Mark 4:26,27. I really don’t know how it comes to be. Sure, I can tell my story in hindsight and see some of God’s fingerprints on my life. However, in dark days (and there are always some dark days), when I am blind to his works in my life, I have come to appreciate and rely on an emphasis on baptismal life.

How I recount my particular history and the workings of God, who is most definitely incessantly active in it, can be quite unreliable and can change from day to day. What doesn’t change is the abiding promise of God in my baptism. That is why my story always starts from there, the time and place where I was forever created anew.

I speak of my baptism intentionally because it was actually a question regarding this sacrament that put me on the path into the finer points of Lutheran theology. When I put a few questions to him, Pastor Paul Smith (now Queensland District bishop-elect) had the gall to give me the Book of Concord to read. Who does that? I appreciated what I read and came to realise there was a whole lot more to our confessional church than I could see through my skewed perceptions. This was around the same time that I first met Glenice.

It was on my trip to Sabah that I made the decision to study theology. At that time, not only was I thirsty for good teaching but I also enjoyed the adventure of a foreign culture (after serving at Yirara College for four years). I considered that a theological degree would be advantageous for serving in a greater and longer capacity in the future.

After thoroughly enjoying studying for a Diploma of Theology at Australian Lutheran College (ALC) through distance education, I took the bold step of moving from Brisbane to Adelaide in 2011 to study full-time. I eventually completed a Bachelor degree with Honours in 2013. I was called to study and learn.

But I was really stuck as to what I was being called into other than formal study. I was eager to continue into doctoral research. However this would have meant a period of waiting and preparing a thesis. In the meantime I had been encouraged to become reacquainted with Glenice, and she presented me with an opportunity to serve as a volunteer for three months in Cambodia.

This really helped to introduce me into the ups and downs of overseas service and living in foreign cultures. At the same time I gained vital teaching experience. It also reminded me not so much of an ongoing interest as of a propensity and patience to sit and be in places where nothing is as it seems to foreign eyes, and of the general inquisitiveness which something foreign awakens.

Of course, all the things that I have been privileged to learn have prepared me and are about to be relearned over and over. Being in community at ALC has been a privilege also. I sometimes joke that I must need a great ocean of grace spoken to me, because many of my friends are pastors or in training to be pastors!

I’ll miss the friendship of both staff and students at ALC. Many of them will provide ongoing support, even when I am at a distance. Prayer covers a lot of ground. It is a privilege to now go and teach and help those who are on their way to becoming pastors, to speak God’s promises to them, to be in fellowship with them and to hear them speak God’s grace to his people.

There are too many things to recount about God’s gifts to me, not only from learning at ALC but also especially from being made and remade by our Lord. Life’s experience is perhaps the great teacher, particularly when it comes to being a Christian in a multicultural setting. I have never been intentional in being so; it simply seems to happen. I’m not naturally a ‘missionary’ or a lecturer or academic. But somehow our poet God has called me into this role for the time being as he continually calls me back to my baptism.’

Glenice says, ‘Michael will need our prayers and encouragement. Despite the fact that he will be in a city, he will still experience isolation. There are fewer overseas staff in PNG than there used to be, so he may feel quite alone. He is also likely to face issues of personal security.’

Michael says, ‘Pray that I have patience, waiting for visa and work permits. For the resolve to learn a new language. For courageous faith when adventure is coloured by 90 per cent anxiety. For living arrangements to be completed for my arrival. For the small number of personal effects to float in the right direction. For a suitable orientation program to be commenced at the appropriate time. For wisdom in how to spend my remaining time in Australia while in limbo. For continued good health and for safe travels in-country.’

If you would like to consider the opportunity to donate to Mick Hauser, who is serving as a lecturer at Martin Luther Seminary in Papua New Guinea, you are invited to go to http://lcamission.org.au/donations/index.php/png.html and select ‘Mick Hauser (Missionary) – PNG’ from the list of projects.

For more information about Mick Hauser, go to http://www.lcamission.org.au/about-us/who-we-are/countries/papua-new-guinea/papua-new-guinea-mick-hauser/