Casey Nelson was a faithful Lutheran. He died on 21 December 2021, after a serious heart condition. His funeral took place on 4 March 2022 at Arlparra. He was buried next to his older brother Ronny in the bush cemetery at Soakage Bore, where Casey had lived before settling in Arlparra.
Pangarta (Casey’s skin name) Nelson was born on 1 July 1962 at Ti Tree Roadhouse (Anmatyerr country). He was the fourth child of Hilda and Tommy (‘Big Tommy’) Pangka. After attending school for five years, he started working as a stockman. He proudly told me about this exciting time when he cared for livestock and treated their injuries and illnesses.
He was ordained by LCA President Mike Semmler on 1 October 2000. For a number of years, he served among Anmatyerr-speaking people at Ti Tree, some 250 kilometres north of Alice Springs. Then he moved to Alice Springs, helping pastors Norman Wurst and Basil Schild with a team of Aboriginal pastors and evangelists ministering in the language of the people living in the town camps.
There were lots of church leaders’ courses over the years at Arlparra, Ti Tree, Six Mile and other places. Casey attended many of them. He also helped with services at Ntaria (Hermannsburg) because, at that time, they had no other Ingkaarta there. Casey baptised children and gave holy communion. Living in Alice Springs, he was one of the pastors helping on confirmation day at Yirara College. Casey’s pastoral ministry ended in 2016.
He moved to Arlparra on the Sandover River, 270 kilometres northeast of Alice Springs, where he served as a church worker. I personally owe Casey a lot. During my induction period, he took me to remote communities and introduced me around. He knew the bush routes to the local camps and patiently showed me how to drive. He usually accompanied me on my assignments and often did the reading in the service and helped out at communion.
Casey always emphasised the Lutheran faith. He distinguished himself clearly from other faiths. With a watchful eye, he ensured that young people who were about to be confirmed were properly trained and prepared.
As a devoted Lutheran and faithful witness to his Lord, Casey’s death leaves a gap. The congregations in the Urapuntja region now have to find a good successor. He leaves behind his partner Gracy, his son Ian and his daughter Bethany and their children and grandchildren.
We ask God that Casey may now see what he has always believed.
Michael Jacobsen is FRM Support Pastor in the Alyawarr/Eastern Arrernte Language Area.