Recently, in the shadow of Uluru, Lutherans from the Mutitjulu community gathered in the Good Shepherd church for the installation of Rita Okai as a lay worker.
‘To be chosen for such a role requires a person to have demonstrated exemplary behaviour in the eyes of fellow Christians at Mutitjulu’, said Finke River Mission (FRM) Pastor Rob Borgas.
Rita, 29, was installed by Docker River pastor Howard Smith, and the service was led by Mutitjulu Pastor Hezekiel Tjingoona.
Like many in her community, she has had to deal with numerous challenges in her life. After her father died, her mother, who was a heavy drinker, left the family in Rita’s care. Since then Rita has been responsible for the welfare of her three younger siblings, as well as her own son.
Rita had started thinking about God’s plan for her life when she was a student at Yirara College, where she was confirmed in 1993. Later, when she was 19, she asked her pastor at Mutitjulu, Hezekiel Tjingoona, if she could help him lead worship and teach the children at Sunday school. He agreed, and proceeded to teach her about the liturgy and the Bible.
In 2008 Pastor Rob Borgas started giving her formal training through a serious of mini courses, and in 2009 she went to Titjikala for her first FRM course for pastors and evangelists. She was the only woman there (along with her grandmother whom she brought along for ‘company’).
Rita then started instructing a confirmation class at Mutitjulu, the first for many years. At the same time she started coordinating choir practice for the Mutitjulu ladies choir, helping ladies to learn the songs and tunes, as well as recording their singing. She still found time to lead Sunday school and help Pastor Hezekiel with Sunday worship. In April 2010 eight young adults, whom Rita helped to teach, were confirmed.
Rita works full-time as an employment consultant for a local employment agency called Anangu Jobs. All of the work she does for her church at Mutitjulu is voluntary.
‘I really like working for the church and teaching people about God’s great love for all people’, she said. ‘I try to help young people discover for themselves that God has a special plan for their lives, too.’
Please remember Rita and the people of Mutitjulu in your prayers.