In May a convoy of Finke River Mission (FRM) vehicles headed for the West MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia to establish a base for meetings and community engagement.
FRM staff and board members often visit the many Lutheran communities in Central Australia, but this FRM Board meeting at Haasts Bluff (220 km west of Alice Springs), at the invitation of the local community, was to be the first held in a remote language area.
Despite the thousands of flies, most of the group camped in swags under the bright night sky, set in an amazing part of God’s creation with Mt Sonder sitting in the background. The first night was memorable in that it rained, and while the break in the drought was a wonderful feeling, those with older swags suffered a sleepless and damp night under the watch of the friendly dingoes.
Days consisted of meetings, community visits and experiencing the wonderful Australian landscape. Near Haasts Bluff, the group visited Memory Corner to view the ‘Early Mission Pioneers’ monument commemorating the first visit by Hermannsburg Aboriginal evangelists, August Landara, Epaphras Entamintama and Robert Palyinka in 1923.
At Haasts Bluff (population 130), the chief organiser was Pastor Paul Traeger, pastoral support worker to the Pintupi–Luritja language area, which extends hundreds of kilometres into Western Australia. The board meeting was in the community hall and lunch was in the Lutheran Church, which also celebrates its 60th anniversary later this year.
At the meeting, local Inkartas (pastors) Simon Dixon and Trevor Raggett offered the board insights into their ministry, along with Pastor Michael Jacobsen, the support worker for the Alyawarr language area north-east of Alice Springs. The board was humbled to hear of the vital work of the support workers, Inkartas and other church leaders from around 45 Central Australian communities providing spiritual care to around 6000 Lutherans.
On Sunday, the board returned to Haasts Bluff for church and a tour of the community. The ringing of the church bell saw around 50 people worship in the local language, led by Pastor Simon Dixon, with wonderful singing and a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Following the service, everyone enjoyed a community BBQ lunch before saying goodbye. Some board members then travelled north-west to the community of Papunya, where Paul is based, while others started back to Alice Springs via Hermannsburg.
This historic event made the board more aware of the significance of the deep relationship established over 142 years of Lutheran Church involvement in the centre, as well as the importance to listen and walk together in the faith and hope that only the gospel can provide.
Chris Pfeiffer is a member and Tim Stollznow is chair of the Finke River Mission Board.
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