A passion and heart for Debora

Debora orphanage is located in a remote region of northern Sumatra, Indonesia and is supported by the Lutheran Women of Australia. In 2019, Rosemary Winderlich visited Debora, as she has done on many previous occasions, this time with the company of Jo Veerhuis and Chris Stott.

Spending even just a few minutes with Rosemary highlights the ongoing passion and heart she has for Debora, although she now readily acknowledges, “I’m not as indestructible as I was…”

Extracts from the journal which Rosemary kept during her latest trip, offer some great insights into the work at Debora as well as the Indonesian culture.

Her journey begins with the bus trip to Debora…

June 28: Good trip, roads much improved over the 6 years.  Home at Silangge (Debora) in about 10 hours. 

June 30: … went with kids to Silangge service… in our hall or games room… “aule”. The little church of this small village is being rebuilt.

June 1: Now playing ‘UNO’ with Andri, Vera, Yanti, Herda, Jo and Chris.  The card games teach a bit of English. 

July 2: …We have been served our meals in privacy in the sitting room next to our bedrooms, isolated from everyone.  I have asked to eat with the kids as I usually do most of the time, but their sense of hospitality is not happy…we must be well looked after and well fed. We have had 4 or 5 meals with them, but have to keep asking.

Music… someone is always singing somewhere, singularly, in harmony, with guitar… distant music drifts down the long passage.

Usually about half the children are orphans, whose pastors and parents have applied for a place here. The reasons…very poor and can’t afford education, or can’t be cared for because of loss of one or both parents.

July 3: Devotions are at 5 in the morning and again at about 7 at night, usually followed by an hour or two of choir practice. The children will sing at the opening and closing of synod, next week.

July 7: … music everywhere… a festival here today to raise funds for the new church… dancing, singing, camaraderie and of course food and worship. 

Before church … children are practising their song for church (we sing with them); someone is strumming guitar in another direction, bits of singing as kids cook… it’s a culture of music.

Near mealtimes, there is usually chilli and garlic being fried in the kitchen, and the smell of concentrated vapour drifts through the rooms.

July 8: … I am up… sore… 3 big services yesterday … normal church, special service to bless the new building, then at night a thanksgiving service nearby for blessing a new house and coffee drying sheds. Lots of festivals.

Life is interesting. I am VERY happy… now a girl who lives a long way away has come to see me… a small girl when I first came, I have not seen her for 5 years. She will stay 2 nights. Wonderful. Any people who have come with me will remember Fitri…very funny, very loving.

July 11: Jo, Chris and I are bursting at the seams with the utter privilege of being here, and all the love we are given.

July 12: …lessons for over 2 hours.

Tuesday…last day.

Morning Kebaktian at 5 … drowsy children drift in and sit silent… all there, we sing, a bible reading around the room, a short talk on the text, Lord’s Prayer, Song… announcements, instructions for the day. This morning the light faded in and out.

Now preparations for school, breakfast, jobs…chickens to be let out, dogs fed, porch and hall swept, etc. They leave at 7 for their various schools. Then we might go back to bed for an hour or two.

I am, as usual, full to overflowing with thankfulness and love, floating above the ground, constantly amazed at all the goodness God has shown to me.

Peace? …that takes a while to achieve when I leave, as I invest myself too much and it hurts to leave each time. I do not seem to have a security control to keep love in check! 

I am constantly aware of God’s presence, and wonderful things have happened…especially in meeting graduates and connecting them back to their church.


For over two decades, Lutheran Women of Australia have supported Debora and, for much of that time, Rosemary Winderlich has been the visiting follow-up presence of that support. Thanks to your support, her visits have reflected God’s love and changed lives: for the current students and staff, in follow up with local leaders and in her determination to catch up with past students.

God invites each of us to use our gifts and passions to serve those around us.

LCA International Mission are currently working on a position paper to clarify our engagement with residential care homes across our region. We’ll keep you posted.

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email nevin.nitschke@lca.org.au. For more information, go to http://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/

Read more stories about volunteering at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/