It is 150 years since the first missionaries, Homann and Gossling (along with Jacob and Vogelsang) were sent from Germany to establish Killalpaninna (Bethesda) Lutheran Mission. It is also 100 years since the mission closed down. Although disappointing at the time, the closing of this mission led to the establishment of a new mission on the banks of the Finke River at Hermannsburg. Earlier this year the Dieri Aboriginal people, who were scattered to many different places when the mission closed in 1917, decided to organise a ‘Back to Killalpaninna’ weekend.
It was over the Easter weekend that 70 Aboriginal and 30 non-Aboriginal people gathered at the abandoned mission site, just west of the Birdsville Track, 140 km north of Marree. What an amazing, God-blessed gathering of celebration and stories this was! People travelled from Birdsville, Broken Hill, Whyalla, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Port Augusta and places in between. Everyone’s needs were well catered for and many new friends were made as the Dieri families warmly welcomed descendants of the early missionaries and workers, linguists and anthropologists, photographers, a lawyer and others.
Ingkaarta Neville Doecke from Hermannsburg led the Easter morning worship. The gathered group joyfully celebrated Jesus our risen saviour and gave Him praise and glory for the past mission work. Ingkaarta Neville reminded everyone that just as the Easter story was ‘never-ending’, so the Bethesda mission story was also ‘never-ending’, even though little of its physical remains can be seen at the site. The Dieri people don’t care; they plan to add amenities to the area and informative signage. This will enable visitors who camp there in the future to remember the past and learn not only about Dieri culture but also about how the Killalpaninna Lutheran Mission is also a very important part of the life story of the local Dieri people as they continue to step into the future.