Far North Queensland

Our objective: To help people in the north come to know Jesus

A Simple Croton

Leading by example is often the way, both in the spiritual and secular realm, but how long does it take to make a difference? Eight years ago, a group of young boys between the ages of eight and ten sat on the footpath in front of our house in Hope Vale, as they often do, just for a talk. On this occasion, I suggested we plant some croton cuttings in the garden bed in front of the church. They all agreed it was a good idea, so we set about getting the 20 cuttings we needed; then over to the church and I punched the holes in the ground while the young boys planted the cuttings; a good dose of water and the task was completed. I encouraged this group of young boys to visit their garden each week especially for the watering. They did not return so I nurtured these plants for the next year and then let nature and natural rain take over.

It was seven years before I saw these boys again when some of them returned to inspect their garden, however I often had seen them around town. So much for leading by example! The photo shows a colourful garden admired by many. It is eight years since those seeds of example were sown and are now bearing “fruit”.

Local people are asking for these plants potted and ready to go. A small production line has begun in our backyard. We have a steady flow of up to 20 plants per week ready for sale at $5 each and a small fundraiser for the local congregation.

The end result so far, has been over 150 plants finding their way into local back yards and very happy people admiring the steady growth. Leading by example only takes water and patience.

And God’s work is no different, we plant the seeds (cuttings) and let the Holy Spirit do the watering, God has promised that his work is not in vain, even if it’s not in our time.

The Peace of God which passes all understanding

The peacefulness of a Baptism or Funeral on traditional Aboriginal land can’t really be explained in simple English. Many people question how this connection to the land can be. But listening, seeing and being a part of an occasion like this brings a much better understanding of this and, actually, seeing God at work.

It doesn’t get much better! Take a look at the setting for a Baptism. In nature and God’s own country, he has welcomed another baptised child.

On a beautiful tropical Sunday in June 2020, in a perfect location at Thompson Creek, Wujal Wujal, we baptised Matthias Barlow.

To understand the meaning of the words “this is where my mother put me down”, the place I was born, is powerful. Some of the older people know the spot. This explains in part the connection to the earth, and the expression the “earth is my mother”. Through the earth God provides all I need, a place to be born, a place to live and food for the family. Today the children are born in hospitals and this changes things.

Perhaps the process of understanding this, even more clearly, began on the day of my ordination when the Kuku Yalanji people of Wujal Wujal accepted Pam and myself into their clan group through a traditional smoking ceremony. The link to this cultural group cannot now be broken and has opened up new opportunities in cross cultural ministry.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 1 Corinthians 9:19 (NIV).

Jesus lived love during his earthly ministry. He didn’t tell people what to do. He didn’t tell people to believe in a certain way or tell them they must comply. He chose to show that the way to gain followers is to know them and to meet them where they are at in life, to walk with them and to nurture them with the love of Jesus.

This means we meet others in their world, we might need to step out of our comfort zone, for example to win a Jew we become a Jew. We become weak to win the weak. We meet Aboriginal people in their world and in their circumstances. We become a baby boomer to win the baby boomers. We become a millennial to win the younger generation. We love with compassion and, unconditionally, never compromising the Gospel. These words aptly describe the way our ministry works in the Aboriginal towns of Hope Vale, Wujal Wujal, Coen and many other unique settings in the far north.

As this is possibly my last report to LWA, we can only express our heartfelt thanks to God and, along with the endless support in many ways of our Lutheran women, you have been an almighty blessing to our continuing ministry in the north. Please feel free to visit the north, contact us and we will ensure a personalised experience of a lifetime.

We summarise our time here as we thank God for “saving the best till last”, and plan our retirement in Cairns.

We pray God’s blessing will remain with LWA for all time.

About the Author

David Spanagel

After spending most of his life serving the church in a lay capacity, David, is now the pastor of the people of far North Queensland. Ministering with his wife Pam. David says:’We are enjoying it immensely and thank God for the opportunity constantly’.

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