A look into Regional Minister’s Fellowships (RMF’s)

For many pastors in the metropolitan area, meeting with other pastors monthly either for coffee or at their cluster catch-ups is a natural part of ministry life. In regional areas, however, this can be more of a challenge.  Long distances between the townships where Baptist pastors are located can often make them feel disconnected and isolated from each other. So, in response to this, Regional Minister’s Fellowship’s (RMF’s) were initiated.

An RMF is a gathering of regional Victoria-based Baptist pastors. Over the course of three days and two nights, pastors come together in worship, teaching, praying, reflecting and rest, as well as a chance to share updates on their ministries and to hear from and be encouraged by people from the BUV Support Hub.

Two of our Regional Pastors are Rev Robert Hayman in the East and Rev Graeme Semple in the West. Apart from their making certain that the fellowship is a time of rest and encouragement, the Regional Pastors also makes sure to listen to the needs of each individual pastors and address any concerns and issues that they may have—all of which are usually done informally through conversations over breakfast, lunch or dinner.

With the uncertainty of COVID-19 throughout 2020 and the toll of the government-mandated restrictions and lockdowns, our most recent RMFs have been extra  special times, where everyone has finally been able to gather together in person.  Pastors valued the chance to meet in person even more than before and they are even more grateful to be able to share their unique experiences together.

This year, the South-East region RMF was held in Lakes Entrance with more than twenty people attending and a similar number gathered in the South-West region RMF which was held in Halls Gap. Rev Daniel Bullock, the BUV’s Director Mission and Ministries, shared at both gatherings, giving pastors a sense of the big picture of what is happening in our churches and also providing insights on what the future of church leadership looks like post-pandemic.

Generations and Emerging Leaders Pastor Kimberly Smith also led a session on “Raising Up and Keeping Volunteers” and the Mission Catalysts Team shared about the latest developments on Church Planting and Placemaking/Placemakers. Andrew Naylor, our Partnership and Development Pastor, shared about the kind of partnerships churches can be involved in and updated pastors on the ways the bushfire appeal fund have been used in supporting those who have been affected.

The RMFs are a great way for pastors and spouses to get to know each other better and to share the joys and challenges of ministry with people who are also on the journey. We are so thankful for the incredible work our pastors do in rural areas of Victoria and are encouraged by their faithfulness throughout this last year.

Special ordination transfer celebrations at Lutuv Baptist Church

The BUV’s Ordination Transfers is a process by which pastors who have been ordained in another denomination, state or country, are formally recognised by the BUV. This year, a special celebration was held at Lutuv (Chin) Baptist Church in Keilor to recognise Ram Mang Lawngsang and Van Cin Thang Lahnin’s Ordination Transfer in front of their beloved friends, family and Baptist community. BUV staff in attendance included Rev Daniel Bullock who led the service, Rev Meewon Yang and Rev Jonathan Stark who preached a word of hope and encouragement about rejoicing in the midst of hardship and suffering.

Check out the wonderful photos below and read on for Rev Ram and Rev Van’s encouraging stories on their ministries.

 

 

Rev Mang Lawngsang’s story:
My name is Ram Mang Lawngsang. My mother church is Hriangpi Baptist Church which is under Lutuv Association of Baptist Church, Hnaring, Chin state in Myanmar.

In 1982, I received Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour and in 1984, after an encouraging visit from our church deacons, I accepted God’s calling into pastoral ministry by attending Union Theological College where I took up a Diploma in Theology Course. Upon graduating and serving as Head Pastor at Hriangpi Baptist Church, God eventually called me to serve in the role of Youth Director at the Lutuv Association of Baptist Churches, where I was officially ordained on the 2 February 1996. From there, I had served in several churches in pastoral and teaching roles including the Yangon Lutuv Baptist Church, Malaysia Lutuv Children Education Centre and the Malaysia Lutuv Christian Fellowship.

Upon arriving in Melbourne in 2016, my family and I attended the Lutuv Baptist Church where I first served as a church senior assistant and where I now continue to serve as Associate Pastor.

 

Rev Van Cin Thang’s story:
My name is Pastor Van Cin Thang. I have been happily married for over 5 years to my beloved Siata Elizabeth and we are parents to our two daughters. While completing my Theological studies in Malaysia, I responded to God’s calling to pastoral ministry and began serving Him among my people as preacher in 2010. I served as Church Chairman of more than two thousand members in Malaysia at the Malaysia Lautu Christian Fellowship from 2012-2014. Though my position was formally as Church Chairman, I also served in the role of Head Pastor, taking on all its many duties except conducting the holy sacraments like Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Benediction.

At the same time, I served as the Secretary and President of a community called ZZLMS which is a community composed of six churches and more than ten thousands members in total in Kuala Lumpur from 2013-2014. Afterwards, I served as church Assistant Pastor and Head Pastor at the Malaysia Lautu Christian Fellowship from 2015-2017. It was through this church that I was ordained by the Lautu Association of Baptist Churches in 5 June 2016.

During my ministry in Kuala Lumpur, God used me in such a wonderful way. I preached a lot of sermons, and He also blessed me with opportunities to train hundreds of young people and ministers by preaching and running leadership training courses and seminars in many different churches. I wrote a book of Church leadership in Chin Hakha Language which was distributed to many Chin Churches in Malaysia, USA, Europe, Australia and Myanmar. I really thank God for everything in my life. 

While serving the Lord whole heartily for 6 years in Malaysia, I arrived in Melbourne in July 2017. I continue to serve Him at the Lutuv Baptist Church as the Assistant Pastor from 2018 till today. I am so grateful to the Living God for using me for his glorious Kingdom. God opened ways for me to serve Him in youth Seminar, CE (Church Education) Campaign, CE Teachers’ Training as speaker and trainer. To God be the glory. 

Eat Grow Garden Initiative – a great support for Aintree’s young people

Three years ago, Jono Ingram from the BUV’s Catalyst Team, had an idea to create a social enterprise now known as Eat Grow Garden. Having initially noticed that in Aintree’s growing neighbourhood, all the parks were family-oriented and mostly aimed at those under twelve years-old, there was a lack of infrastructure and support for the young adults whose numbers also continued to grow.

Thinking proactively for the long-term, Jono wanted to build connections and engage with the young people in the area who were trying to navigate a neighbourhood that didn’t have a lot going on for them. Having collected stories through the conversations he’s had with people working in the homeless sector, Jono found that most young people who were disengaged from their communities often found themselves on the streets and, in turn, without employment.

This was the catalyst for launching Eat Grow Garden, an employment strategy and enterprise that focuses on employing young people as well as life training as part of their employment contract.

The enterprise first started as residential garden maintenance with a focus on building vegetable gardens as part of Jono and the team’s commitment to tackling climate change and caring for creation. It was also a means for them to teach people how to grow food at home, in community centres, child centres and schools.

Aintree Public School was a key space and place in the neighbourhood for the Eat Grow Garden initiative given that it is the only public school in the growing community. The school gives the enterprise, and therefore the young people, steady and solid work in a very supportive environment that understands the needs of young people, which is quite unlike residential work that often is quite stressful and pressure-oriented.

One of the great things about Eat Grow Garden from a kingdom perspective is the opportunity to be a huge witness to the lives of young people by giving them multiple shots over and over again.

Lachy [pictured above] is part of one of Eat Grow Garden’s amazing maintenance teams. Lachy is grateful and super excited for the opportunity to work alongside a supportive team.

Jono wants to encourage and challenge everyone to work with what they have to make an impact in other people’s lives:

“Look at what you’re already doing or what they’re already good at and try and imagine the ways that they could use those gifts and those opportunities to really tap in with what God’s doing them.”

Wangaratta Baptist Church reaches out to community with newly built playground

The newly built playground at Wangaratta Baptist Church is a great addition to the Wangaratta community, turning a once unsafe fort into a place of fun and a place to reach out to the community.  The playground was initially installed to reach families attending the church, but Pastor Aaron Wardle and the team at Wangaratta Baptist Church has transformed the playground into a place that is accessible to the community—a way to both reach out and provide a way for families and children to know about God.

Wangaratta Baptist Church’s music programs, Sunday services and kids club are all supplemented by this newly built background, which has now become a community asset.

 

Celebrating Garry Lock’s 42 years in ministry

Garry Lock has been serving in ministry for 42 years and with 27 of those as a chaplain at the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Read on for a recount of his incredible and rewarding ministry:

My 15 years in church-based ministry, began in Melton-Bacchus Marsh, then North Balwyn as youth Pastor and Ballarat East as Student Pastor. Following my Ordination we were called to the Mallee Parklands Baptist Church. The time in the Mallee was incredible for Ann and me and our boys, including being part of the team who started the Southern Mallee Cooperative Parish which brought the Baptist and Uniting Churches together, and where I was astonished by the ‘God of the Desert’. Following our time in the Mallee we were called to Surrey Hills Baptist, which we left too soon, but were able to initiate the Surrey Hills Baptist Children’s Centre, which has now grown into an amazing ministry.  We are so appreciative of our time in ministry here in Victoria.

Receiving the Conspicuous Service Cross from Her Excellency Governor General Quentin Bryce 2011 at Government House Canberra.

1994 found me in Navy chaplaincy which was adventurous, extremely challenging and, in the initial years, took me so far outside my comfort zone I thought I’d never find my way back. There were also astonishing opportunities for ministry among Navy people who really appreciate having chaplains around and, as you are aware, wherever there are ADF people a chaplain will be close by. That’s at sea, ashore, in conflict zones, times of joy and deepest sadness.

Baghdad Green Zone at the partly destroyed Baath Party HQ 2008

The skills and learning opportunities offered to ADF chaplains are unsurpassed. These range from the initial officer training through to chaplains’ specific training at the Defence Force Chaplains College (DFCC) in Canberra, to advanced leadership and management training. I was very fortunate to have experienced all of these and to have been part of the development of some, including the establishment of the DFCC. 

I was also able to attend two senior leadership courses at the US Navy Chaplains School at the USN War College, Newport Rhode Island, to spend time on exchange with the Royal Navy at HMS Sultan, to go on a number of deployments with the Navy, and work in conflict zones in Bougainville and Iraq. Leading the prayers for Anzac Day services in Washington, Galipolli and in Westminster Abby, London were real highlights.

Ann and I at Gallipoli where I led the prayers – ANZAC 2010

Ann and I at Gallipoli where I led the prayers – ANZAC 2010

Fun times included helicopter transfers between ships either from deck to deck or winch transfers; boat transfers from ship to ship, underwater helicopter escape training;  very rough seas and very beautiful calm seas; time on board two US Navy carriers and a deck landing and take-off from a US Navy carrier on board a Carry On Delivery (COD) aircraft. I was privileged to work with Army and RAAF colleagues in operational, pastoral and management settings and to join our Protestant ADF chaplains for a retreat each year.

However, the most amazing experience of all that truly changed my life was watching an albatross follow the ship for a few days as I reflected upon Genesis1:1-2, the ‘God of the Deep’.

Close personal friendships with chaplains and other Defence people that are enduring and supportive are a great memory for me.

Baghdad Anzac Day 2008 – Green Zone in the Australian base

I was very fortunate to be advanced to Chaplain Division Five as Director General Chaplaincy-Navy, only the third Protestant Chaplain (and second Baptist behind Ken Jervis) in that role, where I worked directly for the Chief of Navy as one of his senior leadership team.  In 2011, I was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross – a big surprise to me! I left full-time Navy in December 2011 to join the Navy Reserve, and worked as a chaplain at Geelong high School, and completed three short interim ministries.

In 2015 I was appointed to the  Religious Advisory Committee to the Services (RACS) as the Associated Protestant Churches Chaplaincy Board (APCCB) member. The late David Griffiths was in this position and recruited me to Navy.The RACS is now a multi-faith Defence committee with representatives from the Catholic, Anglican, Uniting Church, Presbyterian, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Moslem and our own faith groups.Over the last six years RACS has worked hard to introduce multi-faith chaplaincy, working with Navy to introduce non-faith group chaplaincy, called Maritime Spiritual Welfare Officers, and to recruit and ensure women chaplains are well supported by everyone. I’d especially like to thank Rev Katrina Lambert for her significant work as our special advisor for women in ADF chaplaincy.

Ann and I at my Advancement to Principal Chaplain – Navy 2008 in Chief of Navy’s office

Our APCCB denominations now include the Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist, Churches of Christ, Salvation Army, Lutheran and ACC. Our chaplains increased from 80 to over 100 in the last six years making us the largest group of the 300 or so chaplains in the ADF. There are about 43 or more Baptist chaplains, compared to three, or five if you include the part time chaplains, when I joined.

So, now I come to the end of 42 years in ministry, with a lot of it in Defence. I will contemplate interim ministry when we’ve built our house here at the Community of Transfiguration in Teesdale, which opens up a whole new ministry direction for us.

Ann will continue her quite astonishing ministry as the Director of the WellSpring Centre, and as a spiritual director in her own right. 2020 was a very challenging year for WellSpring as they have transitioned all the courses they teach through the University of Divinity to on-line, and as they have all learned to practice spiritual direction on-line as well. That and the growth in governance and accountability have meant a lot of work. WellSpring grown and developed this year out of anyone’s expectations. Last Saturday Ann launched the new Wellspring bookCompanioning at the Edges: Exploring New Dimensions of Spiritual Direction in Australia. 

Ann and I are blessed indeed by our ministries and so thankful for the way we have been called by God’s grace to Baptist ministry with the BUV through all our life together.

Sharing Hope – A Community in Action on the Thai-Burma Border

Sharing Hope is the embodiment of community in action. A dynamic, relational and grassroots NGO, the organisation represents a decade of partnership with Karen refugees in Victoria and their Australian neighbours, as they work in community-led aid and reconstruction projects in refugee camps, IDP camps, schools and villages in Thailand and Karen State, Burma.

History of Sharing Hope’s Founder

Sharing Hope’s founder, Jor Hope Pe also known as Jordan, has been in Australia for more than 27 years. His perilous journey to Australia began back in Burma (also called Myanmar) where he crossed the Thai-Burma border in the Karen state to seek refuge from the Burmese military who had attacked his home and village.

Coming to Australia by himself as a young person was a challenge for Jordan, having to fit in to a new country and new culture, all with having to navigate the English language. But despite it all, Jordan was able to find support through his local church community, and around 2005, he was grateful to have found an all-Karen church service in the afternoon where he became a prominent member.  

In 2010, Jordan was able to invite a few church members to return to the Thai-Burma border to see the situation at hand. Convincing people to join them on this pilgrimage was a difficult task, especially for those who have never been there or experienced it or are wary of what they can expect from a country under military rule. But with the love, support and the heart for the Karen community, a total of six people including Jordan volunteered to go and visit the many refugee camps where they were able to see first-hand the suffering of the people and the serious lack of basic needs unmet.

Upon returning, the team birthed the Hope Project, which later became Sharing Hope, with Jordan at the helm as one of the team leaders with Kathy Thompson.

Sharing Hope today

Today, the Sharing Hope team continues to do amazing work. Their border team is comprised of Karen community development workers who live along the Thai-Burma border while their team in Australia are comprised of many dedicated workers from a range of backgrounds.

All of their projects are managed by local community leaders, with teams liaising with them regularly to report back on the progress of their publicly funded projects.

Every member of Sharing Hope works with the Karen people, either directly through Sharing Hope itself or in other capacities from community development, aid and refugee support, to administration, policy development and financial management.

The next generation with GenHope

Jordan and the team have also put together GenHope, a subset organisation of Sharing Hope whose focus is to empower Karen young adults in Australia and on the Thai-Burma border to share the story of the Karen people. These empowered young people are frequently called on to speak at schools, churches and conferences and so far has raised over $15,000 for Sharing Hope’s aid programs.

Be part of the long-term solution

Please visit Sharing Hope’s donation page here where you can partner with them to support Karen families as they rebuilt their communities. You can make a regular or one time donation with all the details included there.

Your donations will support the following projects and many more to come:

TEACHER SUPPORT – BORDER BASICS

Karen teachers are passionate, but often lack a steady income. Sharing Hope has partnered with schools in Karen State for 10 years, providing wage support so teachers can remain in their classrooms, and children can get the consistent education they deserve.

LEADERS OF TOMORROW – LEADERS OF HOPE

Sharing Hope believes in supporting the leaders of tomorrow! Karen students like Say K’Bleet are passionate, driven trailblazers. Sharing Hope supports scholarships for students who complete school, so they can gain qualifications from universities around the world. These graduates, like Say, frequently return home to provide support for their families and friends on the Thai-Burma border.

MEDICINE & MEDIC SUPPORT – BORDER BASICS

When families in remote Karen communities get sick, they often have to travel for days to receive medical support. Sharing Hope supports local medics through wage support and medical supplies. Together we are working to provide relief for sick and injured people.

FOOD SUPPORT – BORDER BASICS

Refugees and Internally Displaced People are among the most vulnerable on earth. Food in these camps on the Thai-Burma border are often scarce. Sharing Hope regularly provides support to these communities, particularly to the camp’s schools, so all students and teachers can eat regular meals.

REBUILDING LIVES – BORDER REBUILD

Hundreds of thousands of Karen people have been displaced. When they go back to their homes, they so often find that their villages have been destroyed. Sharing Hope partners with these communities to provide critical infrastructure, such as schools and medical clinics.

BUV @ Surrender Melbourne Mini Festival 2021

It was an occasion of much joy and deep pondering as the Surrender community gathered together for our first in-person event on Saturday, 13 March 2021 at Mitcham Baptist Church.

As the past year of 2020 has unveiled deep wounds and injustices in our world, coupled with the COVID-19 season that had most of us restricted inside our homes, it was an incredible feat from the Surrender team, especially the incomparable Charlene Delos Santos, to organise an event that brought together people from all nations and ethnicities, gathered to both hear and listen to the heartbreaking and inspiring voices of the poor and the marginalised.

‘I came away thinking how great this would be if all our churches were able to hear the stories and be so inspired… The invitation from our indigenous communities for the churches to engage in two-way dialogue to improve what our successive governments have been unable is perhaps a pertinent opportunity to model the reason why the church exists – to redeem society or as Johnny Baker and Cathy Ross (CMS) says, “to heal all things”.’

Rev Gayle Hill, the Head of the BUV Mission Catalyst team

The one-day mini festival, a first for Surrender who usually holds a much bigger annual conference at the Belgrave Heights Convention Centre, still featured the classics:

  • Keynote speakers
  • Welcome to Country
  • Music, dance and spoken word performances
  • Open space discussions
  • Art exhibitions
  • Market stalls featuring crowd-favourites Eden, RoyRak, and newer features like Soul Tread magazine
  • Coffees and chats
  • Yarning

 

Check out some more photos of the event here!

Surrender Co. hosts and creates safe spaces to discuss challenging and sometimes painful issues. They seek to keep Jesus at the centre of their conversation, so they leave in peace, hope and unity even as they are challenged. They do this because they share a common belief in a risen Christ and the hope of justice, beauty and the wholeness through Him.

The BUV is honoured to be part of the Surrender Community and taking part in its annual conference where we host a marquee and share stories of mission, justice, and faithfulness with hundreds of conference attendees. The BUV is excited to see what the Surrender team has in store  for the rest of the year!

Learn more about Surrender and join the #SurrenderCommunity at www.surrender.org.au.

Celebrating the induction of new pastors in regional Victoria

With the ease of restrictions in Victoria, celebrations were at hand with the induction of new senior pastors Rob Tanner from New Life Baptist Church, Ross Barnes from Koondrook/Barham Baptist Church and Paul Pallot at Warrnambool Baptist Church. Check them out below!

 
Rob and Sue Tanner from New Life Baptist Church

This was a very exciting day in the life of New Life Baptist Church where Rob and Sue Tanner were officially welcomed and Rob was Inducted as the new Senior Pastor. It was great sharing in the service with the Moderator Phil Trebilcock. It was a great day of celebration and joy held at a Reception centre in Echuca. It’s a day of new beginnings.

Ross Barnes with wife Susan at Koondrook/Barham Baptist Church

It was a joy to participate in the Induction Service of Ross Barnes who commenced a new season of ministry with his wife Susan at Koondrook/Barham Baptist Church yesterday. This is an exciting new season building on the great work of the previous Pastor Bernard Blummel. Paul Downie who is doing an Interim Ministry at Kerang preached at this service and the service was well attended by people from other churches and friends.

Paul Pallot at Warrnambool Baptist Church

An exciting day at Warrnambool Baptist Church with the Induction of  Rev Paul Pallot. It was a joy to officially induct Paul after 12 months of him being their during COVID lockdowns and restrictions. Rev Nicholas Tuohy spoke, Senior Pastor at Kew Baptist, where Paul had been in  ministry prior to taking up his position at Warrnambool.  A group of local Pastors were able to attend, along with the Moderator Geoff Emonson. A day long awaited for became a blessed reality.