God had other plans

‘We are witnesses of God’s great work being done through you to us here at the Heldsbach Kindergarten Schools Project.’ – Project Coordinator Taningnao.

Heldsbach, near Finschhafen on Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Huon Peninsula east of Lae, is a special place for people of the St Paul’s Hahndorf/Redeemer Nairne Lutheran parish in the Adelaide Hills.

One member, Tony Gallasch, worked there in the 1960s. In 2008, he returned with his wife Coral and learned of the needs of a school where ‘headmen’ are trained to be spiritual leaders in an area with more than 60,000 Lutherans. Coral, an early childhood teacher, was asked to start a kindergarten.

The seed was planted and, with the Holy Spirit, it flourished. Back home in South Australia, the parish set to work fundraising for educational and maintenance materials.

In 2009, a parish team travelled to Heldsbach to do maintenance work at the school. At the same time, Coral offered kindergarten-teaching workshops for village women. She thought one kindergarten would start but God had other plans. The women were so enthusiastic they wanted workshops at night, as well as during the day. The workshops resulted in nine kindergartens starting up in surrounding villages!

In 2011, Coral and Tony returned for the next maintenance project. PNG people made decisions about the work, as well as working on the dormitory, ablution block, eating mess and cook houses. This contributed to Heldsbach hosting the 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG Synod for 5000 people!

Meanwhile, Coral gave more teacher-training workshops for women, many of whom walked for several days, carrying babies in billums. There were 36 women from 19 villages who took part and the new kindergartens have flourished. One kindergarten in a village bush house began with 40 enrolments! As kindergartens opened, each village teacher received a starter pack with educational materials. Coral continues to encourage, advise and assist the teachers.

In 2019, in-service training held at Heldsbach was attended by 53 kindergarten teachers – there are now 33 centres in village communities. Participants expressed thanks for the ongoing support, ‘We thank you, believers, for your prayers throughout the in-service and at all times’.

The St Paul’s Hahndorf community continues to fundraise for this project. Funds are earmarked for the Heldsbach Kindergarten Project, via the PNG Project Office, LCA International Mission.

This story was also published in the April 2020 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.

If you, your school or your congregation, would like to know how you can connect to the mission of God through a LCA International Mission partnership, you are invited to phone Erin on (08) 8267 7300 or email erin.kerber@lca.org.au. For more information, go to www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/start-a-partnership/

Read more stories about congregational partnerships at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/local-partners/congregations/