Pre-1950 the Lutheran missionary Pastor F W Albrecht began visiting the remote Alyawarr area (the Sandover region), 300 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs. After 1958 his son Pastor Paul Albrecht and FRM Board member Gary Stoll, both fluent Arrernte speakers and long-time employees of the FRM, began regular visits at the Sandover.
During that time Aboriginal pastor (then evangelist) Colin Malbunka was ministering to the Alyawarr. Pastor Davey Ingkamala also played a significant role in the ministry. Conrad Raberaba, senior pastor from Hermannsburg, performed baptisms at both Utopia and Amaroo (Ampilatwatja) before Davey Inkamala’s ordination. For reinforcement, Pastor Immanuel Rutjinama from Yuelamu/Napperbyworked in this area, too. He accompanied Pastor Paul Albrecht when he visited the communities.
In the early 1980s/1990s Pastor Paul Albrecht translated the liturgy and parts of Scripture into Alyawarr. Bible translator sAndrew and Molly Jantke worked at Ampilatwatja and transcribed the liturgy into IAD orthography.
In the late 1990s, after church worker Tim Klein finished working at Ampilatwatja, David Strickland of SIL International (formerly known as Summer Institute of Linguistics) moved from Epenarra to Utopia and assisted David Moore working with Aboriginal pastor Frank Turner on translation. David and Susan Moore worked at Ampilatwatja. Gary Stoll still visited the area to work with David and train pastors to read the Arrarnta Bible.
During that time Indigenous pastors Ronnie Price and Stewart Peterson served at Iylenty (Mosquito Bore) and Atneltyey/Atniltji (Boundary Bore) respectively for a short time. Simon Ross and Frank Turner ministered at Irrultja.
Before the first Alyawarr mini-Bible was published in a cooperative effort between FRM and SIL in 2003, various Bible portions were printed and an Alyawarr songbook with liturgy was compiled. A few years later the Alyawarr mini-Bible was revised and expanded.
Between 2009 and 2018 FRM support pastors Ray Morris, David Kuss and Darryl Mattner served there successively with great dedication. Former pastor Casey Nelson from Ti Tree was sometimes active in the Utopia area during these years. He is still performing as a church worker and helps the full-time staff with their assignments.
So far, three major bush courses have been held for all Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal pastors in this language region: Irrultja, 2013; Engawala Alcoota, 2017; and Arlparra, 2019.
German pastor Michael Jacobsen joined the FRM team in the Centre in 2017, and was installed by Bishop John Henderson in 2018 at Irrultja and commissioned as an FRM support pastor to serve among the Alywarr together with local pastor Frank Turner.
The new bush church at Engawala/Alcoota was dedicated in June 2019. It is still being built on, but is being used diligently by the community there.
The Aboriginal Lutheran Church in the Alyawarr and Eastern Arrernte region is developing more and more in concentric circles around three major communities: Ampilatwatja, Arlparra (Utopia) and Engawala. In each area, local mission and church history are different from each other. Identification with the Christian faith and affiliation with the Lutheran Church are not uniform. And that makes working herein the Alyawarr and Eastern Arrernte region so exciting and challenging. It is desirable that these three areas will grow closer together in the future.
Michael Jacobsen is the Ministry Support Worker for the Alyawarr Language Area.