Neville Naden, Indigenous Ministry Officer
Bush Church Aid has always realised the need to reach Indigenous people with the gospel. From its early days, BCA missioners (Field Staff) travelled to remote and isolated parts of the country to proclaim Christ to Indigenous communities.
Over the past 30 years or so BCA's focus has changed. Today, BCA seeks to encourage the equipping of Indigenous men and women to take the gospel to their own people. To help with this process BCA employed me as its Indigenous Ministry Officer in 2019.
At the beginning of 2020 I became aware of three young Aboriginal people studying at two Anglican Theological Colleges. Lonny Bendessi at Ridley College in Melbourne and Lucie Wheeler & Jonathan Tuivawa at Moore College in Sydney.
I thought it would be good if BCA were able to offer support to Lonny, Lucie and Jonathan. A grant was made available to each of them which allowed them to purchase books and other aids to help them with their studies.
Recently, BCA funded a ministry awareness trip for these three students. In late November/early December 2020 they travelled with me and Kim Hinkley (Executive Assistant to the BCA National Director) to St Peter's Anglican Church, Tamworth. It was here that they were able to experience ministry in a government housing area called Coledale.
As most people living in this area are Aboriginal, St Peter's Anglican Church thought it would be good to provide ministry in the area. The Coledale Front Yard Church was established, and former BCA Indigenous Ministry Trainee George Ferguson and his wife Carmel were heavily involved in this ministry under the guidance of Senior Minister of St Peter’s, Rod Chiswell (now Bishop of Armidale).
We were greatly encouraged to see the passion in which Lonny, Lucie and Jonathan engaged with the community. When asked how he got the ministry to be successful, Rod Chiswell said that “When it comes to Coledale, we were intentional about serving the community”.
For any ministry to be successful, there must be an element of intentionality.
After our visit to Tamworth, we headed back to Sydney to visit other Anglican churches and ministers throughout the metropolitan area.
The students visited St Andrew’s Cathedral for the 10am Sunday service and then had lunch with the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Kanishka Raffel. During this time they were able to ask him questions about his role and the Anglican Church in general.
"Our trip to Tamworth and Sydney was a great eye-opener to the different types of ministries that are out there not only for Aboriginal communities and individuals, but also for the rest of the communities we visited,” says Lucie Wheeler. “For me, Tamworth was a standout, as we saw a great piece of ministry that is the Coledale Front Yard Church. Also the Living Waters Church in Redfern was an exciting visit. I can positively say that I want to go back out in the field to visit the ministries we saw. Our trip was for me an all-round success: great ministries, great opportunities and great people."
BCA is committed to seeing Aboriginal people supported – to become all they can be for the sake of the gospel and contribute to church leadership.
All three students worked hard during 2020 and achieved their desired outcomes – they passed their assessments and are now thinking about, 'where to from here'. Please pray for Lonny, Lucie and Jonathan as they consider their plans for 2021.