Missionary reunion supports lasting bond

Whether it was one year ago or 60 years ago, time spent in God’s mission in Papua New Guinea has made an incredible impact on the lives of people who served there. It has also created a lasting bond among them.

On Sunday, 8 January, more than 60 former missionaries met for their annual reunion, hosted by Trinity Lutheran Church, at Lutheran Homes, Hope Valley. The South Australians were joined by friends from The Netherlands and from other Australian states. A reunion is a time for remembering life in the past, catching up with life today, and—of course—eating!

The day began with worship in the beautiful chapel at Hope Valley. Former missionary Pastor Gordon Gerhardy preached from the text of Genesis 1, emphasising that God was in charge ‘in the beginning’ and God is in charge now. People—whether they live in PNG or Australia or anywhere else—get in trouble when they ignore that simple reality. He cited the influence of Christians, who recognised God’s power and grace, in maintaining peace in PNG in the crisis of two prime ministers vying for control. On the Sunday in which we commemorate the baptism of Jesus, he urged us to ‘live our baptism every day, take heart and praise God’.

Colin and Ruth Hayter presented a report on the LCA’s partnerships throughout South-east Asia. They introduced the audience to the phrase ‘graduated empowerment’ as the philosophy behind the way the Lutheran Church is doing overseas mission and service today.

In a special presentation ‘Missionary Wives Speak Out’, Kaye Pfeiffer led a panel of mission wives—Claire Tscharke, Noreen Klein, Christine Lockwood and Dianne Eckermann—in a discussion of their experiences. Although their service spanned over 50 years and the details varied, common themes emerged. Missionary wives had learned to trust God in difficult situations. They felt called to a role of supporting their husbands. Each one also carried out personal service and relational ministry among the people as well as raising their own children. The children generally enjoyed growing up in PNG. They gained a concern for marginalised people and an ability to relate to a wide range of people—but they found settling into Australian society challenging. The wives, too, experienced ‘reverse cultural shock’ when they left PNG. For these women, the years in PNG were a wonderful part of their lives.

The group paused to remember missionary associates from Australia, Canada, Germany and USA who died in the past year: Arlene Conlon, Dennis Feist, Hedwig Hertle, Elizabeth Jaeschke, Roma Jaeschke, Lois Menzel, Herbert Miller, Mae Nerrison, Lorene Pinno, Anna Price, Lloyd Spike, Helmut Walther and Clarence Wegenast.

Rosemary Winderlich led a series of prayers for the church in Papua New Guinea.

A mission offering of over $2000 was received from the congregation and the reunion group. This will support the people of Karkar Island in rebuilding Gaubin Hospital and the evangelistic work of Rev Greg Schiller, who is currently our only paid ordained missionary in Papua New Guinea.

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 www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/