by Rebecka Colldunberg
Early in the morning of 8 April, 2012, fire ravaged a 16-classroom Indonesian school. It was Easter Sunday.
The Banua Niha Keriso Protestan (BNKP) Senior High School in Gunungsitoli is part of the greater BNKP community in the Nias Islands of Indonesia. It is a community which has an impressive membership of 456,000 people, spread out between 1078 congregations over 58 districts, and is a partner of the Lutheran Church of Australia. It is because of this partnership that the Board of BNKP Educational Foundation sent a letter to Lutheran Education Australia (LEA), pleading for help with the monumental task of reconstructing the school (almost AU$700,000 estimated for the rebuild alone).
It didn’t take long for LEA to forward the letter around Australian Lutheran schools, and very quickly it found its way to the inbox of Neville Doecke, chaplain at Yirara College.
Situated in Alice Springs and administered by Finke River Mission in the Northern Territory, Yirara College is a boarding school for Indigenous students from remote communities. With fewer than 50 students it is a small community. But what it lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in heart.
‘We have Yirara Church three times per term’, Neville explained. ‘This is when all students stay on campus for Sunday “church”. It’s a normal Lutheran worship service with Holy Communion, led by Pastor Simon Dixon. Each term we allocate our offering money to a particular worthy cause. I visited North Sumatra a few years ago, and I have always had a mind for helping Lutheran schools in Indonesia.
‘Hearing of the disaster on Nias Island really affected me and prompted me to discuss with LCA Mission International ways of supporting the cause’, Neville said. ‘Students at Yirara were told their offerings were to go to assist the Nias High School to rebuild and provide school materials. We were sent some photos of the damaged school buildings and these were shown to the students. Those pictures definitely helped the kids to see and understand what they were supporting. As a result, student giving was more than it usually was.’