Since 2017, representatives of the Lutheran congregations of the Sandover have been meeting at the main community Ampilatwatja for their annual regional conference. This year they met on the weekend of 12–13 September – later than usual, due to COVID-19.
Sandover is located northeast of Alice Springs. It can be reached on an unsealed track in three to four hours by 4WD. North and south of the remote Sandover Road are the small Lutheran congregations and family groups from which representatives gather for this annual church meeting. They cultivate fellowship, have singalongs and worship together. At this year’s worship service a child was baptised.
On the Saturday evening, the commemoration of 70 years of Lutheran mission and church among the Alyawarr people was held as part of a traditional singalong. With some people wrapped up in their warm blankets, everyone listened attentively when local pastor Frank Turner and I told ‘their story’. Especially among the elders, there were murmurs of recognition when the names of former missionaries and linguists were mentioned. The greeting from LCA Bishop John Henderson, which he concluded by saying ‘I praise God because of you’, was also appreciated.
Stories were retold until late at night and anecdotes from ‘back then’ were shared in the circle of family groups around their small campfires.
Freddy Dixon, the community and church worker from Tomahawk Swamp, whispered in my ear the next morning: ‘That was a good story, really good. It must not be forgotten. We have to keep telling it to the younger generation.’
Michael Jacobsen is the Ministry Support Worker for the Alyawarr Language Area.