Serving in a global context is obviously a challenge enjoyed by Australian Chey Mattner, the Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) World Service Head of Operations. Before he took on the Geneva-based role in 2018, Chey was Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) Executive Director and spent 10 years with the LCA’s overseas aid and development agency. We asked Chey about serving the church in an international setting.
What do you enjoy most about your role, particularly in terms of its global implications?
The variety of it. LWF World Service is a very lean organisation – only 3 per cent of its funding is allocated to overheads. That means you can be in the field one day, meeting a government official the next and writing a policy somewhere in between. We have more than 7000 staff in 25 countries, so most decisions have a global impact. And working with an extremely committed and professional team, as was the case at ALWS!
Has it given you new perspectives?
Working at ALWS gave me the perspective of challenges faced by an organisation which provides technical and financial support, while this role has given me a better idea of obstacles faced by an organisation implementing the work. For example, we may not be able to construct a school quickly because a flood has washed away the foundation, or we need to evacuate staff because of conflict. The role has reinforced for me that human greed is the reason for much of the poverty and suffering in the world and that the most powerful way to address it is to give children, especially girls, the chance to be educated.
What are the most challenging elements?
Making hard decisions that affect lives. We recently needed to close a program because we couldn’t find the money to keep it going. It will have a tremendous impact on those who benefited because of it, as well as on staff who were employed. And accepting the fact that we can’t always respond to needs because local regimes will not allow us in.
What would you like to say to encourage Lutherans in Australia/New Zealand?
Hold onto ALWS. It’s one of LWF’s most respected partners because of the value it places in true partnership. ALWS is a solid, reliable and professional organisation which LWF learns a lot from. And we need to challenge ourselves as a church to think globally. Where once the future of our church was to protect itself from the world, it will now only thrive if it’s in the world. We need to reconnect because our church has so much to give.