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Teaching on the edge of the Territory

ALC partners with Finke River Mission (FRM) to provide 2 separate weeks of training for Aboriginal pastors and evangelists each year. Dr Andrew Pfeiffer led the most recent training and shares this reflection. 

Australia is a vast continent. I was reminded of that reality when teaching at the latest Finke River Mission (FRM) bush camp.

This time it was held in Kaltukatjara (Docker River) from April 7-11. Kaltukatjara is 682km west of Alice Springs, 8km from the WA border and about 100km north of the South Australian border. The road trip took us about eight hours but some of the pastors and trainees travelled a few hours just to get to Alice before setting off. Lindsay Thomas from Yalata joined us with the help of Pastor David Kuss, who travelled the farthest from Murray Bridge to be our cookie extraordinaire. There were participants from 5 language groups represented, which added to the complexity of teaching and communicating at this camp: Arrante, Anmatyerr, Alyawarr, Pitjantjara, and Pintupi Luritja.

The camp included indigenous pastors, trainees and visitors, FRM translator/support workers, our cook, and four guests. In addition, women from the local congregation came to listen to two of the sessions and showed particular interest in working with the pastors to offer confirmation instruction for the young.  

The topic for the week was The Role of the Pastor. The pastors and trainees attending were very engaged. We studied the Scriptures, the LCA Ordination Rite and an FRM outline on the pastoral role in their context. We spent a day developing our preaching, and experimented with group language discussions and a closing Q&A session, both of which seemed to go well. At the closing HC service, trainee Bernard and Pastor Lindsay led the liturgy with assistance from support worker Malcolm Willcocks, and I preached.

As usual there were some interesting side highlights. The landscape was spectacular, including seeing Uluru on the way. A bull camel greeted us on the last section of the dirt road and a few horses farewelled us on the way home. Two local dingoes made themselves at home, especially around the ‘kitchen’. 

The spread of the Gospel in central Australia is a remarkable story. However, the task needs to be re-claimed and embraced by each new generation. Please pray for the many community congregations, the indigenous pastors, those in training to be pastors, support workers Malcolm Willcocks, Neville Doecke and David Strickland, all who work in support of Finke River Mission, and for those being challenged to serve God in the various vacant roles.