July 12, 2016

75% of One Aboriginal Community Is Baptized in Remote Australia

South Pacific Adventist Record

The Seventh-day Adventist message is spreading like wildfire across Australia’s Outback.

Remote communities in the Northern Territory are being reached for the first time, with local pastors overjoyed about how God is working through them to win souls.

The Mungkarta Aboriginal community, located 45 miles (75 kilometers) south of the nearest town, Tennant Creek, population 3,065, is one of the new, previously unreached areas. The community has had a number of recent contacts with Adventists, including a literature evangelist, gospel singers, Bible workers, and pastors. This led to an evangelistic series in March that resulted in 30 decisions for baptism out of a community of around 40 people.

“When I first started I had very little work, very little contacts in the Northern Territory,” said pastor Don Fehlberg, who conducted the series.

He has visited Mungkarta four times over the past two years in his role as senior pastor for the church-run Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Ministries (ATSIM).

“One of the exciting things is that it has happened so rapidly,” Fehlberg said. “God has spoken to these people, and we are supporting it. He paved the way by convicting them of the Sabbath.”

Alice Springs church pastor David Gilmore is amazed how the remote region is opening up.

“It’s an exciting story,” he said. “Fifteen to 20 years ago, we had been trying to reach them, and we had interest. But now it’s really concrete.”

See Facebook photos from Adventist Church president Ted Wilson's visit with Aboriginal Australians in May 2016

Gilmore’s territory — extending some 560 miles (900 kilometers) from the town of Finke to Tennant Creek — includes 300 of the estimated 1,028 Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory.

“There are a lot of communities along the highway between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs,” Gilmore said. “We had only a few contacts in these communities before Mungkarta. The people often have relatives in other communities so there is a real networking effect. The whole area has opened up in an amazing way.”

The first baptism of seven people was held on April 23 in McLaren Creek, 15 miles (25 kilometers) from Mungkarta, and included the community's two spiritual leaders, Simon Moore and his brother-in-law Lance Duggie, along with their wives.

Early in his Christian journey, Moore had a dream where he saw God instructing him to read Exodus 20:8, which says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (NKJV). When he later shared his dream with Duggie, he was surprised to hear that his brother-in-law had also felt impressed by God to read the Ten Commandments. This convicted the pair that the seventh day is the Sabbath.

Fehlberg said many Aboriginal people across Australia have had Bible-related dreams, particularly about the Sabbath and Jesus’ Second Coming.

“They have a respect for the Bible and a respect for Jesus,” he said. “They not only love the Bible and respect it, they read it. I think that’s why it has made a big impact on them.”

Mamarapha College, an Adventist-operated theological institution for indigenous Australians located near Perth in western Australia, is also playing a key role “in what is happening in the field,” Fehlberg said.

“Lance and Simon are coming to Mamarapha this year,” he said. “There’s more than half a dozen from Mungkarta who want to come to Bible college. They come because they want to learn more about Jesus and the Bible.”

He added: “This year we have had our biggest class ever for the first study block — 47 students. For the first time the biggest mob from any state has come from the Northern Territory. That’s exciting.”