Dear Friends of the Far North
Let me introduce myself. I am Pastor Mark Winter, a Queenslander from birth and an LCA pastor since my ordination on 15 December 1985. I have served at Cummins SA, Beenleigh Qld, Luther College Vic, and Wyndham, west of Melbourne Vic. During the COVID lockdown in Melbourne last year, the people of Far North Queensland felt led by God to call me, and Andrea my wife, to come and further God’s mission with them in this place. God opened the way for us to arrive and be installed on 7 February 2021. Since I have only been here for the last four months, this report will be a combined effort between myself and Pastor David Spanagel. So over to Pastor David.
What a roller coaster we have all been on in 2020, and it’s not over yet! Each one of us, either as individuals or a congregational group of people has experienced a whole range of emotions and changes.
Above all, in the north we thank God for his protection from the virus that caused us a level of concern not experienced before.
As a worshipping group this opened a wide range of opportunities led by live streaming services through Facebook. In a flash, our participating group tripled, not only locally, but across the LCA, especially amongst people who have a passionate interest in the work being done in the north. It did not stop there, COVID presented the opportunity to use and learn new hymns and to modify the format of services to something that has found overall acceptance with greatest appeal to the next generation. God has been working through times that have been difficult for us in a very positive way.
Upon our return to regular worship, our attendance has not returned to pre COVID levels. New ways of regular contact needed to be found. In tight knit communities like Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal this occurred through an increased level of visiting and daily contact with people in their everyday activities.
The Hope Vale church “Op Shop” under the guidance of Pam Spanagel has operated very successfully throughout this period. It has provided a service to the community and a necessary financial stream for our congregation. Because of the range of items we stock, there’s something for everyone. We should not forget the benefit this has provided in terms of “retail therapy” during our lockdown period. In turn, this has provided support for the mental health of so many. We have had family members Karla and Suzanne working feverishly in Cairns to source goods for us and having them delivered to transport companies who have given us a very generous freight deal to get the goods here.
The financial support this has generated for the ongoing work of the congregation has been vital as we have quietly established some ongoing financial stability.
With the pending retirement of David Spanagel, the search for a pastor to follow began over a long period of time. This call was extended to Pastor Mark Winter and in due course was accepted. The installation of Mark and his wife Andrea followed on 7 February 2021. A time embraced by the community. This is an historical and important first whereby the community has not had an extended pastoral vacancy. God has provided in the way only he can! A transition like this has been a blessing at this challenging time. Now back to Pastor Mark.
Andrea and I are settling into this ministry. We have much to learn. We are looking forward to growing with the people of the Far North – Hope Vale, Wujal Wujal, Coen, and Cooktown – in the grace and love of Jesus our Saviour. We know that our God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is faithful and will enable us all to live out our collective witness to his transforming power for all.
We thank Pastor David and Pam for their faithful work in the Far North and ask that you pray for us and all the people here, that we may continue to faithfully share the hope that we all have in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pastor David Spanagel and Pastor Mark Winter