From Yirara with love

Early in the morning of 8 April, 2012, fire ravaged a 16-classroom Indonesian school. It was Easter Sunday.

The Banua Niha Keriso Protestan (BNKP) Senior High School in Gunungsitoli is part of the greater BNKP community in the Nias Islands of Indonesia. It is a community which has an impressive membership of 456,000 people, spread out between 1,078 congregations over 58 districts, and is a partner of the Lutheran Church of Australia. It is because of this partnership that the Board of BNKP Educational Foundation sent a letter to Lutheran Education Australia (LEA), pleading for help in the monumental task of reconstructing the school (almost AU$700,000 estimated for the rebuild alone).

It didn’t take long for LEA to forward the letter around Australian Lutheran schools, and very quickly it found its way into the inbox of Neville Doecke, chaplain at Yirara College.

Situated in Alice Springs and administered by Finke River Mission in the Northern Territory, Yirara College is a boarding school for Indigenous students from remote communities. With fewer than 50 students it is a small community. But what it lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in heart.

‘We have Yirara Church three times per term.’ Neville explained. ‘This is when all students stay on campus for Sunday ‘church’. It’s a normal Lutheran worship service with Holy Communion led by Pastor Simon Dixon. Each term we allocate our offering money to a particular worthy cause. I visited North Sumatra a few years ago, and I have always had a mind for helping Lutheran Schools in Indonesia.

Hearing of the disaster of Nias Island really affected me and prompted me to discuss with the LCA, ways of supporting the cause.’ Neville said. ‘Students at Yirara were told their offerings were to go to assist the Nias High School to rebuild and provide school materials. We were sent some photos of the damaged school buildings and these were shown to the students. Those pictures definitely helped the kids to see and understand what they were supporting. As a result, student giving was more than it usually was’.

‘I didn’t even know there were Lutheran schools in Indonesia!’ Yirara student Jessica Joe said, ‘but I learnt in one day that there were schools and that one burnt down.’
Banding together, the Yirara college community raised $1,800 for the school. And on Indonesian Independence Day this year, as part of a visit to the church synods of Indonesia, Glenice Hartwich presented the money to the principal and chairman of the school foundation of BKNP.

‘What a privilege it was for me to be able to give them the gift and share this news with the students who were gathered at the school to welcome us’, said Glenice. ‘The students and teachers of the Nias Lutheran High School were so encouraged and inspired by this most generous gift, and by the fact that even though the students of Yirara hadn’t met them before, they showed the love of Jesus to them through this gift.’

‘What we did for the Indonesian school really helped me to grow as a person’, Yirara student Lexine Grant said. ‘The experience really showed me that our offering money can help others a long way away –  people who really need our help. I was amazed when they sent us a thank you gift of a beautiful traditional shawl. What an amazing insight into God’s love. Seeing thankful hearts like that is truly amazing. I can’t stop thinking about how long it must have taken to make and of the ladies who took that time to make it. We gave to them expecting nothing in return and yet we received this amazing gift!’

The Yirara college community is tiny. The BNKP community is immense. Neither community knew of the other’s existence, and had it not been for the tragedy of the fire, they probably never would have.

What strangers are out there today? You don’t have to go abroad to find them. You don’t even have to go interstate. There are strangers all around you suffering tragedies big and small. How can you show a stranger God’s love and make their life a little bit better today?

If your school would like to know more about how they can connect to the mission of God through a LCA International Mission service-learning and ministry partnership, you are invited to phone Erin on (08) 8267 7300 or email For more information, go to

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