Australia is a vast land, just slightly smaller than continental USA. However, the population is disproportionately small at 23 million. Eighty percent of the population live on the eastern side of the continent, between Brisbane and Melbourne. This means that vast areas of the country are sparsely populated and rarely visited. These areas are often extremely hot, with typical summer temperatures 90-100oF, and it is not uncommon for temperatures to reach over 113oF.
Australia is a young nation, having been established in 1788 when the British began to colonize the continent. Indigenous people often associated Christianity with a very un-Christian attitude toward colonization. Nevertheless, the gospel did eventually reach the indigenous people and, here and there, testimonies were established. A few aboriginal assemblies remain today.
There are several full-time workers in Australia. Three or four focus mainly on the preaching of the gospel. Others focus on Scripture and literature distribution, and some on teaching the Word.
We make our home in South Australia, about 60 kms from Adelaide. In Adelaide city, there are two little assemblies, with which we move in happy fellowship. The next nearest little rural assembly is about 350 kms away, followed by assemblies in Melbourne (700 kms).
We arrived in South Australia from Northern Ireland, along with our two teenage children in November, 2012. In November of 2014, we left secular employment to serve the Lord full time in the gospel. The spread of the gospel locally involves preaching in community centers, town halls, and the Gospel Tent.
In the town where we make our home (Strathalbyn – population of 5000), we had our first series of gospel meetings in a community center in 2013. By the grace of God, we were brought into contact with local believers, who brought others to the meetings. As a result of these meetings, we were able to commence a regular monthly gospel meeting and generally have 35-50 in attendance. We can also testify to the goodness of God in that we have been able to have several series of gospel meetings in the town.
Normally, 70% of those who attend have a denominational background. The need for good, solid teaching is therefore a burden, and we are thankful that able brethren have visited to help with this. Teaching weekends allow us bring the Word of God to local believers. These have been a blessing to the local believers, and it is a joy to see some responding to the truth and growing in the Lord.
Young believers (and older saints as well) from other areas of Australia have traveled to be with us. As a result, these local believers have been impressed to see young people with a hunger for the Word of God and it has been instructive to them. With just over 100 in attendance over the weekend, the responsibility for catering, accommodation, and logistics for 40 interstate visitors in the home can be interesting!
For the upbuilding of these saints locally, we also have a small home study, looking at such subjects as “The `Deity of our Lord Jesus,” “His Eternal Sonship,” and “The Tabernacle.”
In surrounding towns, we hire out various halls and community centers for a few nights in the gospel and invite the people to come in. Attendance at these meetings is typically 8-15. Nevertheless, quite a few have heard the gospel for the first time. Literature work is constant, as we seek to make contact with the people. This work includes distribution of Bibles and calendars as well as tracts, CDs, and booklets.
South Australia, for the most part, has turned away from God and is moving, with quickening pace, from being merely apathetic to being openly antagonistic to the gospel. However, this presents some great opportunities in street work in Adelaide, as those passing by are more likely to engage in conversation. Street work has been a big part of the work in Adelaide for many years. Several times a week, two elderly brethren in their 80s would visit the city center and give out wooden Scripture plaques.
Ignorance of the truth of God is stunning. Many have never heard even a rudimentary gospel. I think of one young man who stood and wept as my son spoke to him of the cross. We constantly have the privilege of telling people the gospel for the first time, or giving them their first Bible.
We find that rural areas can be more sympathetic to the gospel, but in the outback areas, many have simply never heard the gospel. In the 1960’s, parents closed the Bible in the home. As a result, these isolated families have not been exposed to the gospel at all.
Travel to more remote areas can be interesting, with extreme heat and few services. We either take the Gospel Caravan or one-man tents, called swags. In some of these areas, we have been able to have a few short series of meetings. Our burden is to focus on our local area. We do, however, travel elsewhere from time to time to help with the gospel, in fellowship with the local assemblies.
Generally, people will come into the tent more easily than other locations. Last year in Tasmania (with Clive Barber) seven witches came into the tent! However, in spite of real opposition, God blessed and the meetings were extended. Three, who had no background in the gospel, confessed Christ as Savior. One was the “enforcer” of a bike gang, one a retired farmer, and one a university researcher. The local assemblies have taken them into their care, and are faithful in their efforts to teach them.
We often struggle to get the gospel tent into the bigger towns or cities across Australia. We, therefore, applied to Adelaide City Council (for March 2017) to have a Bible Exhibition during the day and the gospel at night. We bowed in worship when we received permission.
We are thankful that our children, Kerrie (20) and Jack (19), are active in helping in the work, enabling us to take on more opportunities. There is no shortage of opportunities for the gospel, but the words of our Lord are always true – “the laborers are few.”
Please pray that local believers will be built up in the faith, and that, in the grace of God a local assembly will be divinely appointed. Pray that the little meetings in community centers will be further blessed with salvation.