ABairnsdale Seventh-day Adventist church folk would like to share with fellow Victorian brothers and sister-in-Christ how we have united to serve, honour and share our love of Jesus both in East Gippsland and further afield.
It seems 2018/2019 was when we as a church family came fully alive. The seeds of much prayer and past outreach came to fruition as we began to join together in purpose. We were working in harmony with the Holy Spirit in many ways and people were being drawn to God’s message of love and preparation for the Second Coming. The conception of the Hope Restart Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation facility on our grounds, which will benefit many needy people was one important move. What follows here isn’t a matter of listing events but rather a celebration of God active in our midst.
However, here are some of those events.
During the last half of 2019 Cornerstone Ministries leader Tony Rykers took a series of special sermons uplifting Christ as our soon coming Saviour. The last was “Why do we need the Sabbath?” Members of the public and church folk alike appreciated them. Tony, along with fellow lay evangelist Jason Gardner and others including family members, continued this ministry with several overseas missions, often to East African countries, during 2019. They sponsor and train local people to teach and evangelise in places like Mozambique and Malawi. (See enclosed photo of Alan Walker and evangelist Jackson Solomon) In November we were treated to a sacred violin concert by visiting professional musician Hayden Wiseman assisted by our own talented violinist Antoinette Mowbray (a local GP who is also our health ministries leader.) On November 9th there was a baptism of nine people (photo shows, from left to right, Leisa Bragg and Len Bragg, both of whom were re-baptised, Rachel Silby, Uya Zulu, Kurtis Glanville, Tom Rothe and Joshua Gardner. Not in the photo was Nina Sant.) Jayden Gardner was baptised earlier in the year. Young Uya had already been much involved in leading out in Sabbath School Preliminaries and continues an active ministry.
2019 also saw the establishment of an Adventurers Group with leaders Stephen and Bronwyn Smith, Leo Hamulczyk and Simone Rykers. T he children met regularly on Sabbath afternoons plus there was a trip to the snow, a Family Fun Day and the Victorian Rally Day, culminating in an investiture on 21st December. (see accompanying photos. In the first, from the left: Bronwyn Smith, Seth Rykers, Ruby Smith, Indie-Anna Rykers, Ariana Hamulczyk, Malachi Smith, Simone Rykers, Leo Hamulczyk, Stephen Smith and Pathfinders District Director Michael Downing. In the second photo Bronwyn is on the left, then Seth, Ruby, Indie-Anna, Ariana, Malachi and Simone Rykers. The third photo and forth photos have Bronwyn and Michael Downing with some of the other children; also a child named Eliza Miller.
That day was also special for a baby dedication. Little Catriana was brought to us by her parents Raffi and Sarah Robles who with the assistance and support of the church family will raise her to know the love of Jesus.
In September another independent ministry that’s been sharing the love of Jesus in many countries over the years went to Malawi. Reach Out For Christ International (ROFCI) is led by Leo and Rose Hamulczyk This was their first time in Africa. We worked closely with Pastor Petro Sukali, now president of the Central Malawi Conference of the SDA church. Petro and his wife Tabu served in our East Gippsland area for about fifteen months several years ago and became good friends with us all. The ROFCI team for the two weeks in Lilongwe, the capital city consisted of volunteers from the Philippines, USA, our Pastor Andrew Wilson, Denise Twining, Alan and Judy Walker and one of our Bairnsdale Op Shop Gems ’n Jams workers, Ann Abbott. Many experienced and capable Malawians were involved in the mission in various ways. Bible workers had been active for several months before the mission began in four sites around the city. An orphanage was visited and prison ministry conducted with seventy of those baptised included in the total. Preaching and health talks and VBS programs went on in all four scattered sites. The children were full of joy and excitement and numbers increased into the hundreds over the fortnight.The last Sabbath culminated in a mass baptism so that a total of 440 people declared their commitment to the Lord. One newly baptised person had been a pastor from another denomination who came every night to one of the sites. Now he is regularly attending the Lilongwe Golgotta SDA church.
At one point Judy and Alan went to the north of Malawi up near the Zambia border to a town named Mchinji to visit with close friends Ishmael and Tabitha, the latter having been taught midwifery by Judy in the 1980’s. We had an awesome experience going with this couple into a remote village previously closely associated with another denomination, to watch the baptism of 26 people in a river. This was the result of long term practical evangelism by the Mchinji church. Just also met another past student, a widow who now single handedly runs a Lilongwe health clinic and supports unemployed family members. After the ROFCI finished Judy and Alan also visited Malamulo SDA Hospital in the south of Malawi, and we were thrilled to see the work point on there. Degree courses in many aspects of health are being run for Africans from many countries. We also met a fellow midwife friend of Judy’s, a woman who taught Judy much about God and midwifery and who is now 115 years old. Mrs Chipyoza Senior is cherished and looked after in her home by family members.
The one ministry that has shone out as a beacon of hope to people all over East Gippsland began with a foundation forged around 13 years ago when our ADRA Opportunity Centre began its work on our property. It was followed soon after by the Gems ’n’ Jams Op Shop. The three successive husband wife manager teams of ADRA all worked well for the community and ADRA Australia, as did the team running Gems ’n’ Jams, with their special interest in an orphanage in Myanmar. They also met the needs of the local community. These two ministries came to work closely together and in December 2018 Merilyn and Don Beveridge were at the helm of ADRA when Merilyn caught a vision to help the needy by establishing Food and Friendship (F&F) This ministry was an overwhelming success from the start with its drop-in for a cuppa and a snack and to get needed food. It’s open every Monday between 10am and 1pm. The friendship part was soon obviously the most important for the many and varied people who came in increasing numbers. Often expressed remarks were “We feel accepted and safe here” and “You’ve saved my life.” The latter was often literal as folk with multiple challenges in their lives were assisted out of homelessness or away from abusive partners or distressing mental health issues. We began to have some of these people attend our weekly Sabbath lunches and then other programs and services. Some asked for Bibles studies and even baptism. the people themselves began to be involved in running F&F themselves along with many previously somewhat less active church members who caught the joy of volunteering. By the time the fire situation hit our region the work of ADRA had already been recognised and the local Council was involving us in service delivery to the extended community. Food came from various sources including Second Bite, ALDI, and Baker’s Delight and the numbers of attendees kept growing. Then with Merilyn’s and other team members organisational skills and the eventual involvement of other ADRA groups they were ready tp become an official Fire Assistance Centre for the distribution of food, generators and all sorts of other needed supplies all over the region. F&F passed its first “birthday” in December 2019. This whole community has been blessed. What’s more, this spirit of service has spilled over into many other activities of our church until there’s hardly a single person who isn’t involved in some way or other. If the Bairnsdale Seventh-day-Adventis church disappeared many people in our community would keenly feel its loss.
The influence of F&F is continuing. On Sabbath 25th January there was another baptism and one of the ladies first met us through F&F and Faith FM Radio. Her name is Raelene Rintala. The other lady baptised is Melissa Gardiner, who has some family members who belong to the church. Before their baptism we had a special item when Ann Burns, our music director sang a duet of Amazing Grace” with another friend from F&F, Rubon Trujillo.
Rod Twining and Judith Walker