Our mission and ministry
Finke River Mission is a ministry of the Lutheran Church of Australia. Our mission is to:
live, promote, teach and nurture the proclamation of the gospel among the indigenous people of central Australia according to the Scriptures and the Confessions of the Lutheran Church.
Finke River Mission, together with Alice Springs Lutheran Church, Lutheran Community Care, Yirara College and Living Waters Lutheran School, brings God’s saving gospel to Lutherans in Central Australia. The work is focused on ministry among over 6000 Aboriginal Christians who identify as Lutheran in the southern part of the Northern Territory and extending from the Queensland border to just over the Western Australia border. These Aboriginal Lutherans in more than 40 communities are served by 28 pastors (20 Aboriginal) and dozens of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal leaders and trainee pastors.
Finke River Mission’s ministry covers the Arrarnta, Pitjantjatjara, Luritja, Alyawarr, Anmatyerr language areas (more about our Language Areas). Ministry leaders (both women and men) often travel long distances to study the Scriptures together and to learn how to lead people of their own language group to know the Lord Jesus Christ. They are supported by non-Indigenous support workers.
With support from Australian Lutheran College, Finke River Mission is responsible for the training of Aboriginal pastors and other leaders who proclaim the good news of salvation to their people in six languages. The Finke River Mission Board coordinates the work of supporting church leaders, as well as providing Bibles, hymns and other worship resources in language, and promoting appropriate literacy programs. Through Yirara College, Finke River Mission provides Christian secondary education to up to 300 Aboriginal boarding students annually from remote Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. Additionally, at the request of the local community, Finke River Mission operates a general store and the Old Mission Precinct at Hermannsburg.
Finke River Mission was established in 1877 by two German missionaries, who had set out from Tanunda in South Australia 20 months earlier. They had endured a gruelling journey through unimaginably harsh country, along waterless tracks in stifling heat. They named the mission settlement Hermannsburg, after their hometown in Germany. In 1878 they were joined by a follow-up group from Germany. Despite some promising achievements, the early years were plagued with hardship, including isolation, illness, lack of medical aid, droughts, severe frosts, disappointing spiritual experiences, and unpleasant confrontations with police as the missionaries acted to protect the people from exploitation and worse. However, the missionaries persisted with language learning, translation and teaching. Today 26 Aboriginal Lutheran pastors serve more than 45 communities in the 5 main central Australian language areas, supported by Finke River Mission. More about our history ...
For 135 years Finke River Mission has served the Indigenous people in central Australia. These services have included hospital and health, education and training, and distribution of food and clothes, as well as word and sacrament ministry and translation activities, including the Bible, hymnbooks, catechisms and Bible stories. More about our activities ...
Aboriginal men and women have been working alongside the white mission workers as evangelists from the early days of the Finke River Mission. On 15 November 1964, Peter Bullah of Hermannsburg was ordained as our first Aboriginal pastor (Ingkaarta). Today there are 21 active (and 5 retired) Ingkaartas whom Finke River Mission supports through education, training and mentoring. Ordained Ingkaartas and those in training far out-number the white support workers. All of us work together, often travelling enormous distances, to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to far-flung communities.