Around 50 past and present members of Brewarrina Adventist church plant in New South Wales, Australia, came together to celebrate the church’s 10th anniversary in December. The church plant started as a house church in 2013, when pastors Keith and Danuta Stockwell started giving Bible studies to Aboriginal elder Uncle Les Doole. He was baptized along with his wife, Aunty Joyce, in December 2013 — the first baptism in Brewarrina.
A small leadership team was formed with community members Aunty Mary, Sid, and Rongo Richards to help pick up people in the community, provide breakfasts and lunches each Saturday (Sabbath), and minister to all who came. Since the first church service, the church plant regularly has averaged around 40 people from the local community, predominantly children and teens.
Reflecting on the church plant’s history, the Stockwells said, “God has blessed and impacted the church plant and local community as arms have been linked with Adventist Aviation who have been flying to Brewarrina over the past 50 years; STORMCo service teams; and prior Currawah staff and students and others.”
Based in a predominantly Indigenous town (61.4 percent), Brewarrina church is offering programs and support to meet the community’s needs.
According to Aunty Mary, the influence of the church has contributed to a drop in domestic violence and drug and alcohol consumption in the community. “Those issues are there, but we don’t see them as strong as before. The kids we’ve been picking up over the years came from homes that struggled with those issues, but through the influence of the church and getting to know Jesus and His love, they’ve been transformed and want to take care of their families and their community to reflect Jesus’ love,” she said.
Doreen Waites is one of the people whose life was impacted by the ministry of the Stockwells, her mother, Aunty Mary, and the work of the church. After growing up in Brewarrina, Waites studied pastoral ministry at Mamarapha College in Perth and has been the pastor of the church plant since 2020.
Commenting on the 10-year milestone and her own journey, Waites said, “Growing up in this community and not seeing hope for our people, not seeing hope for my own future, but having a church, having people here that remind us of God’s love and that there’s more to life and that God is our hope, I just love giving back that hope to my people.”
Darren Garlett, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries (ATSIM) director for the Adventist Church in Australia, explained that churches in remote areas such as Brewarrina become “the center of everything.”
“Our churches become places where people want to be. Leaders like Doreen do all these events, creating an identity in the community, and people want to be part of it,” Garlett said.