What is it about suggesting a long lunch that somehow also shouts out ‘Yay, a picnic!’?

At Blanchetown, South Australia, the Lutheran Lunch stretched across Australia’s longest river on a lovely warm and cloudy day—perfect weather for a venue without shade. Worship beforehand saw the little Blanchetown church bursting at the seams, and 58 people later sat down to lunch on the bridge. Shade wasn’t lacking at Duncraig, Western Australia, where people came and went under the shade of a big tree ‘which reminded us how covered and shielded we are by God’s grace’. What a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon!

Meanwhile in Buccleuch, South Australia, lunch was held a-Long the Mallee Highway, where locals—and even some tourists—joined in sharing sausage sangas with a few gourmet extras and lovely ice-cold drinks.

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By Sheree Schmaal

Remembering the Kentwells

For years Julius Kentwell was the most unlovable neighbour in his street.  The one person no-one in the Lower Blue Mountains town of Springwood wanted to have over for dinner. The one who had 16 cats and whose house smelled so bad that people used to cross the road when they walked by. He cursed Our Saviour Lutheran Church when it was built opposite his house and swore never to go in.

There was no way that you’d get me to attend a service’, Julius wrote years later—expletives removed.

‘It would have been the ultimate sacrifice: denying myself the pleasures of a lazy Sunday sleep-in. No minister could spout a good enough blurb to outdo my own pleasures.’

The 50-something-year-old man was not afraid to share his opinions with anyone who dared to walk past his front verandah.

‘I always regarded the traditional church as a place where the preacher dressed up like the village idiot and chanted a load of rhubarb; where the aims of the exercise were money and power; where I never knew any of the hymns; where the sermons would bore the armour off a medieval knight; and where there was an overwhelming lack of relevance to the real world’, he wrote.

Marie Hamann and her husband, Pastor Robert Hamann, were among the few who did walk past. Over cold glasses of Julius’ homebrew, things started to change.

‘We got to know Julius and his wife, Jenny, when we moved into the manse at Springwood in 1992’, explained Marie.

‘They were both intelligent and had a close, loving marriage, but were not the kind of people it was easy to love.’

‘No-one else in the street had any time for Julius because he was difficult to be around’, Robert said. ‘But we were prepared to stop and talk. On one occasion, after we had known Julius and Jenny as neighbours for quite a while—it was 31 October—I was walking past and Julius invited me in for a beer. I said, “What did you celebrate today Julius, Halloween or the Reformation?” It was sort of a poke to make him curious and to give me the opportunity to talk about it.

‘Of course, he didn’t have a clue what the Reformation was. But he was a very intelligent man and always interested in new things. So it was a good opportunity to open his eyes to what was right there in his community.’

Julius admitted he knew ‘as much about the Lutheran Church as [his] budgerigar knows about nuclear physics’, but still never imagined going inside the church.

Yet one day an invitation from Marie changed his mind.

‘Marie said to me I really ought to get myself out of the sack and across to hear her hubby do his thing. Yeah, sure, yawns I’, Julius wrote.

‘But there was something infectious about Marie’s excitement for her husband’s sermons, a series of analyses on the Apostles Creed … So, as much as anything to shut her up, I went to [hear] one after scraping up a fiver for the plate, on the basis that Bob’s sermons were his livelihood, so he’d better get some pay for his work.’

Julius sat right in the middle of the front row that first Sunday and for the rest of the 22-part series. Thereafter, he returned nearly every week for the rest of his life to continue learning about basic Christian theology.

‘To the other 30-or-so members of the congregation he was a shock; his lifestyle


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By Cath Pfeiffer-Smith

‘I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11

On 20 September, 2011, Edna Vonow sat at this remote railway line waiting for a train to go through the crossing. The driver waved at her and she waved back. What happened after that is nothing short of a miracle. You see, God was right there with her, waiting for that train too. Crystal Brook is a charming town some 200 kilometres north of Adelaide, just off the main highway. I drive down the main street and see clusters of people chatting, a friendly wave of a hand out the window, a tractor bumping through town. I catch the waft of freshly baked pasties as I snail-pace it past the bakery.

It’s a town that Edna Vonow and her extended family have called home forever. Its unhurried pace and welcoming ambience is engaging. But as much as Edna loves this place, for some time she had been praying that the town would be given a shake to its bones, to make it sit up and take more notice of God. Little did she know how God was going to answer her prayer.

The day started out like any other. Edna carefully arranged chairs in her lounge room for the church ladies to meet, prepared food and looked forward to the afternoon with her friends. The day went well, although she can’t remember any of it any more.
Then she headed out to her son’s place on the farm, some 12 kilometres out of town, the place she called home when she was younger. A road she had travelled many, many times and a crossing where Edna had stopped too many times to remember.

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By Rosie Schefe

What does it really mean to love your neighbour, when the world is intent on building walls to separate you?

12.30pm, Monday, 30 September,  2013: Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. I walk past the camera operator who has been projecting Bishop Munib Younan’s image onto screens high above the 1000-strong audience at the Australian Conference on Lutheran Education (ACLE).

‘So what did you think of that?’ I ask, acknowledging his role during the keynote address. ‘That was amazing! I only wish we were recording it. When that guy wins the Nobel Peace Prize we’ll all be sorry that wasn’t on tape!’ the operator says, going on to describe how rare it was for him to become so engaged by a conference speaker.

It is a reaction that typifies much of my experience over six days of following Bishop Younan from Adelaide to Brisbane. The people he meets are captivated, not just by this small, unassuming man with the wide smile and subtle sense of humour, but, more importantly, by the powerful message of peace, reconciliation and love which he brings.

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by Rosie Schefe

As autumn gives way to winter on the plains surrounding the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, living conditions are worsening for almost 140,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria.

‘This is now the second-largest refugee camp in the world; it overwhelms the town of Za’atri itself’, Australian aid-worker Stephen McDonald told ABC reporter James Bennett on 20 October.

The United Nations estimates that more than 480,000 Syrian refugees are now in Jordan, from a total of two million Syrians fleeing the fighting. One million refugees are children.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) has appealed to the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand to support efforts towards peace in the region. Practical help is also urgently needed to assist the many Syrians living in refugee camps and in Jordanian homes.

Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) launched an appeal in September to raise an initial $50,000 to begin assisting Syrian refugees in Jordan who are living in the Za’atri camp or with Jordanian families. By 20 October a total of $204,937.66 had been raised.

The money will be used to provide thermal underwear and winter clothing (particularly for children) and gas heaters for families living in tents or tarpaulin shelters and to help repair Jordanian homes where Syrian refugees are being hosted …

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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.’

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by Hans Martin Wuerth

Among the many narratives about the Holocaust is the memoir of Max Krakauer, Lichter im Dunkel (Lights in Darkness). Published in 1947, this small book is one of the first autobiographical accounts by a German Jew who, with his wife Karoline, managed to escape detection and capture inside Nazi Germany between 29 January, 1943 and their liberation 27 months later on 23 April, 1945.

Lights in Darkness describes a unique survival story. Immediately after they were warned by a neighbour of their imminent arrest, this Jewish couple were on the run for more than two years, without staying longer than a month in the home of any rescuer. As they fled from one home to another, over hundreds of miles, they were temporarily sheltered in 66 homes across northern and southern Germany. The majority of their rescuers were Protestant pastors, their wives and other family members.

Krakauer’s memoir is a very personal recollection of how, where and why he and his wife were able to endure being pursued relentlessly by Nazi government officials and to stay alive in a climate of anti-Semitism, segregation, hatred, persecution, war and genocide. The Krakauers’ survival was due to their perseverance, the remarkable assistance of their Christian helpers, and, as Krakauer never failed to add, God’s protection.

Lights in Darkness describes Max Krakauer’s futile attempts to emigrate from Nazi Germany. In January 1939 the Krakauers’ daughter, Inge, left for safety in England, while Max and Karoline were subjected to hard, dehumanising forced labour (Zwangsarbeit). This continued until both went underground in January 1943, literally a few steps ahead of the Gestapo …

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By Rosie Schefe and Serena Williams

Approximately 1000 participants gathered in the humid embrace of spring in Brisbane for the fourth Australian Conference on Lutheran Education (ACLE) from 30 September to 2 October.

The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre main hall was transformed into an auditorium for worship and keynote addresses, while a nearby exhibition space provided room for sponsors and exhibitors to talk to participants during breaks or less formal parts of the program.

The strong elective program included a ‘mini-conference’ on Tuesday afternoon: an extended opportunity to try something new, visit the Brisbane cultural precinct or meet with colleagues to discuss mutual areas of responsibility.

Meeting under the theme ’Wise Up! Transforming Mind, Body and Heart in Lutheran Education’, the conference drew not only teachers and other educators, but also pastors, people in non-teaching roles and international guests from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the United States.

But it wasn’t just about professional and spiritual development: ACLE has always been about meeting old and new colleagues from around Australia, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, as people share their experiences and memories of service in Lutheran schools.

On the stage were 16-year-old Amy DeMartino and 17-year-old Tom Smith, bringing tears to the eyes of some of the 900 assembled teachers as they sang How Great is our God in opening worship on the final morning of ACLE … 


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by Beverley Wilson

A young woman comes into the shop, looking for a book on printing or calligraphy.

‘I’m getting married soon and we don’t have much money, so I want to print the place cards myself’, she tells the assistant. As she is leaving, she is obviously attracted by a decorative, antique-style telephone, priced at $45.

A female customer notices. ‘Well, buy it!’ she tells the girl. Laughing, the young woman says, ‘I can’t afford it. I’m getting married.’ ‘Then I’ll buy it for you!’ says the customer—and she does! One happy bride-to-be, and smiles all round.

Welcome to This’N’That Community Store, an op shop in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, which has become an integral part of its community and an opportunity to engage in mission with its people. It is also a highly effective fundraiser for ministries of the LCA Victoria/Tasmania District.

While these ministries have changed over time, This’N’That Community Store has remained true to its original vision for supporting families and individuals in need, whether their needs are physical, emotional, practical or spiritual.

On 14 September This’N’That celebrates 20 years in business at Brentford Square shopping centre, Forest Hill. It currently employs a manager—Barbara Franklin-Browne— two part-time assistant managers and an army of willing volunteers donating time and professional expertise. Over time there have been five managers and five assistant managers, each contributing new ideas and innovations. A management committee meets regularly to monitor the store’s operation, plan and distribute funds.

Volunteers are at its heart, each bringing their special talents and skills—dedicated volunteers like Freda Miles, aged 95. Freda still works in the store four days each week and walks…

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by Rosie Schefe

Having a choice is something that Australians take for granted, but for many people choice is limited—or even absent.

‘We are so beyond blessed in this country. In Egypt, getting involved in politics can get you killed. In Australia we can have a “bloody political coup” without any blood!’ Tom Brennen said.

Tom spoke to The Lutheran on 4 July, the day that the Egyptian Army removed elected President Mohammed Morsi and installed interim President Adli Mansour, suspending the country’s constitution
for 30 days.

Tom and Robyn Brennen returned to Australia from Egypt in mid-June, after 18 months living in a Cairo neighbourhood and working to support refugees who find themselves in Cairo fleeing various situations.

I always wanted to do aid work out of an understanding that the command to love your neighbour includes everyone in the world.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a processing station in Cairo which acts as a gateway to the rest of the world for refugees from African nations.

In 1951 the Egyptian government signed the Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and allowed the UNHCR to process refugees on its territory. But they have still not put any Egyptian domestic asylum procedures in place, effectively assuming no responsibility for refugees transiting through their country.

Estimates of refugee numbers in Egypt vary between 500,000 and 3 million people. People who have no access to healthcare, education, or employment. Many of them are from South Sudan, but they also come from other parts of Africa and the Middle East, including Libya and Syria.

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