Christian back in the centre: what makes families strong and healthy?

Ivan Christian first arrived at Ntaria (Hermannsburg) in 1977 to teach in the Finke River Mission (FRM) outstation schools. His wife Monica was conductor of the ladies choir, and their son, Luke, attended the local school. Their daughter Bethanie was born nine months before they moved to Alice Springs in May 1980, where Ivan faithfully served FRM working in the town camps of Alice Springs for 13 years until the family returned to Adelaide in late 1993.

In early 2017, Ivan came back to central Australia to work for Lutheran Community Care. Here he is interviewed by Emslie Lankin.

Emslie Lankin: What do you love / like about Hermannsburg or Ntaria?

Ivan Christian: I particularly love the fact that the people at Ntaria have very generous memories and they never seem to forget people who have lived and worked with them.

EL: Has anything changed in Ntaria since you left?

IC: The most noticeable change is that in the 70s, the local people spent their days and nights outside and people socialized under the many shade trees in town. Today, people are in air-conditioned houses and cars. Television and Playstations are in every house. The available shade is used protect cars, rather than to cool people in conversation. In the 70s and 80s, FRM and the community looked after the needs of the residents. Now many of Ntaria’s services have been outsourced to external organisations, and for local residents it can be difficult to find adequate work opportunities. There are also many positive changes. Aged care delivers meals to the elderly in the community. Many young people now train daily for football and softball, and many young people are currently receiving confirmation instruction. The youth centre is a wonderfully vibrant, safe place for teenagers and young children.

EL: Are you enjoying your current work place, your work and your colleagues?

IC: After two years as a retired teacher I am loving my period of work with the Lutheran Community Care Intensive Family Support Service Project at Ntaria. I have very supportive and understanding work colleagues and as I prepare to capture stories on video about what make families and children strong and healthy, I am loving the opportunity to re-establish contact with old friends, and to learn the names of many other precious children of God.

EL: Would you recommend Ntaria to others as a place to visit, or in which to live or work?

IC: Yes, I would. Please visit Ntaria to experience the wonderful scenery of the Centre, enjoy the beautiful art and be touched by the history of this community through a visit to the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct. But if you really want to experience the beautiful heart of this place – the people – I think you would have to live and work here. This year during the first weekend in June, Ntaria celebrates the 140th anniversary since the arrival of the first missionaries. I am so glad to witness how God loves the people of this community and am grateful that the people still experience and live in the Good News that in Christ we are loved and treasured, and are equipped to share God’s free love with our families and community.