Australia and New Zealand, how many things have you taught me?! For one, I never realized how large Australia is! It’s ginormous! And I think every missionary I talked to was in a different province. It would take over 40 hours to drive across this vast land. It is also vast in its landscape, from beautiful ocean to dry tundra. Also extremely differing in its racial make up, from aborigines, to Australians, to many immigrants from varying countries. Australia is packed with 24 million citizens while New Zealand is much smaller at 4 million.
Religion in both countries, is for the most part a thing of the past. They have some Catholic roots but very few even claim those anymore. They have developed instead not only a worship of self and self-indulgence but a firmly stiff neck to any form of authority. Parents teach this mentality but also have a tempestuous battle with their children’s behavior. Governmental issues are often swayed not only by true beliefs but also by the desire to not be directed or commanded. And sadly but obviously you can see how this would affect the church and how people as a whole see God. They resent the very premise of needing a supernatural being and definitely balk at the idea of giving Him control on their life.
Being such a vast region it is difficult for the ladies to surmise the total of Independent baptist missionaries serving there but the general consensus was around 20 in Australia and 10-20 in New Zealand. It is definitely a daunting field to go to as a missionary. Where the challenges are greatest, God’s miraculous working is the most clear. What a miracle it is for these ladies when someone overcomes the spiritual deadness and indifference to follow Christ.
Each lady spoke about how it is very difficult to pin point an average time to see someone come to Christ there but it’s definitely a number of years. Years of friendship and meet ups through different community activities, where they can share the gospel. Each lady when they spoke of one of their greatest struggles it was either the challenge of getting people to see their need for salvation or loneliness. Which I believe go hand in hand. Not only are some of the ladies lonely because there ministries are so spread apart or they are far from family but because in places of slow conversions, there is very few believers. We can find friendship and comaradarie in believers of all nationalities. But when those who choose to believe are so very few over the years, missionaries can feel at times like an orphan of both culture and religion.
But thankfully God is the Friend who is always there and will uphold those who serve with his friendship and can give them the grace to serve wherever they are with both grace and joy. The ladies shared with me some of the things that they have or use to encourage their hearts. Some spoke of good godly music, others of fellow missionary friendships, others of packages from home and multiple ladies spoke of their biggest encouragement being the spiritual growth of their converts. What joy it is for the heart of a laborer to see people grow in Christ and express their gratitude and also learn to serve others. I know it also a huge joy as a mother to see your children mature and choose to serve Christ also. Mrs. Piper has two of her children who have married Kiwis (the nick name of a New Zealander) and are serving faithfully in churches in NZ also and one son in the states.
It’s always interesting for me to hear in each area the ways they have found to reach out to their community and how God uses it. One of the missionary wives in Bunbury talked about doing a mothers outreach where she holds a ladies parenting discipline course and beach picnics and youth activities and soon will be starting a sport outreach and they also run a mentoring program in local public schools. Jen Bauer talked about doing special church events for outreach, BBQ’s, VBS and revivals. NZ said they go weekly to the town square to pass out literature and witness to those who allow them. Mrs. Piper in NZ, said she and her husband have been able to outreach through their local bowling team. And almost all the ladies spoke of doing literature distribution by canvassing neighborhoods.
I'm thankful for each of these ladies and their families who are laboring for Christ in a daunting area. I'm thankful they took the time to share their hearts and ministries with me. I'm thankful for their faithfulness and desire to see salvation spread to these needy areas! Great big thank you to all these ladies!
Traci Westbrook, Tasmania Australia
Jen Bauer, Barunga Northern Territory Australia
Lynette Piper, New Plymouth, Australia