Missionary Roots and Modern Impact

  Hi there, everyone. I'm Jarrod. And I'm Zanita. We are your hosts of Record Live, a podcast where we talk about church, faith, and living well. We believe as followers of Jesus, faith is more than just a set of beliefs. It's a way of life, something we put into practice. Let's go live.

 We're back with another episode of Record Live. it is great tO be with you all again. And we have a special guest with us. Blair Lemke is North New South Wales Youth Director, I believe. Um, yeah, Young Adults

Director, working along with Dana, the Youth Director.

Young adults. There you go. So, I'm sure a very adventurous and thrilling job. It's always fun to work with the young people. Um you've recently been in Papua New Guinea and you took part in the PNG for Christ program, and you also walked the Kokoda track. So both of those things are huge efforts of themselves, but you did them one on top of the other.

So you've had, I can only imagine a fascinating and amazing trip. And we wanted to talk to you a little bit about that today, but first just to kick us off, is it your first trip to Papua New Guinea?

It was, yeah. I've been looking forward to going to PNG for really as long as I can remember. I grew up on stories from my grandfather who spent 20 years mission service in Papua New Guinea and then to some of the surrounding islands and yeah, he wrote a book.

We grew up on the stories and for many, many years, I've dreamed of heading over to the country where he spent so much of his time ministering, uh, but have never quite lined it up.

But yeah, I signed up for the PNG for Christ when it was originally happening in 2020, I think was the first effort. And I was really looking forward to delayed, delayed with the COVID and all of those things. And we finally made it here in 2024. So I was really excited to go.

It was my first time and had a blast.

We did talk to Jared the other week about PNG for Christ. So if anyone wants to know all the logistics, they can go back to videos and watch it. But the people who aren't going to go back, can you just in a nutshell, explain what actually is PNG for Christ?

Absolutely. Yeah. The Adventist church has run a, focused evangelistic campaign in PNG over the over two week period and had over 2 000 sites across PNG with many preachers from all around the globe, local preachers as well. We had around 200 from the SPD, I understand. And I was one of those at one of the sites and it was a huge, huge blessing.

Uh, God incredibly blessed. I think some of the latest figures in terms of baptism responses have been up. around the 300, 000 mark with only around 50, just over 50 percent of the sites being counted. So, uh yeah, God really blessed. And a lot of the people that have come back from the Australian cohort, at least have come back on a spiritual high from being a part of what I understand is the largest evangelistic event in the history of the Seventh day Adventist Church.

Yeah, it really was a huge thing. And we want to get into a little bit about your experience as well. Now, Blair, I saw a Facebook post that you made about your experience, and you were reflecting on your grandfather's legacy in that post. And we want to think about that today a little bit. The mission history of the church in the South Pacific is very strong.

In fact, it's I really run through our DNA. I think in terms of we've done a lot of work throughout Asia and the Pacific, um, the church members of Australia, New Zealand. And so for many of us, we've got that legacy of missionary heritage. But what was it like for you? Explain to us some of that feeling of going back, perhaps walking in your grandfather's footsteps, how that felt and how that impacted on your own faith.

That's going to be the broad sort of strokes of our conversation today. But if we can start just understanding what it was like for you to have that experience.

Yeah, absolutely. Honestly, it was a very surreal experience. When we were planning the PNG for Christ, I was originally signed each of the Australian cohort and people from around the place were assigned based on conference groups to particular regions and areas.

And, when I was working with Gary Webster, he was working on the site allocations and things like this. I asked him whether it could. allocate me to a different area, because knowing that my grandpa had served in the country for such a long time, I wanted to go to a particular location where he experienced some great tragedy while he was serving.

And so I requested if I could be located in the Southwest of Papua, I'm not sure if they had many other volunteers putting their hands up for that area. It was quite the journey to get there. I had a particular site called Wipam which was up about, I've spent about half an hour on dinghy going up a river and then half a day on a tractor going through the mud cause you couldn't drive it was too thick.

And then half a day of hiking after that. So it was way up in the sticks, but, I'd requested to go there because 72 years earlier, my grandfather had accepted a call to pioneer the Adventist work and take the gospel to this region in Papua New Guinea. And he had sailed up the Orinimo River, which is just north of Daru, a regional center in the area in the southwest of Papua.

And He'd sailed up the Oriomo river and chosen a site to establish a mission station, and that became the center of the Adventist work at that region. They set up a little school and began Traveling to the surrounding villages and sharing the gospel with them. And it was a very surreal experience.

To get to my site, I travel up the same river that he had gone up 72 years earlier, and I was just looking around trying to take it all in trying to imagine what it was like those many years ago as these, you know, he was a young 30 year old man at the time that he went up this very similar to myself.

And I was just trying to imagine what it would have been like to go into an unreached area to take the gospel. And yeah, it was an amazing experience. Probably one of the most moving parts of it is, when I got into the village where I was scheduled to speak, The local folk put on an elaborate welcome ceremony as they're prone to do they've They're very very welcoming culture.

It's a wonderful thing. I learned so many lessons. They really have a great gift game as well if anyone's been to pmg, you know this the billums and the You know hats All sorts of stuff that they get out. Uh, but they did this elaborate welcome ceremony and, and as a part of that ceremony, they did a reenactment of the gospel coming to that region 72 years earlier, with my grandfather bringing it by boat and, they reenacted an accident that had taken place when he was serving. Uh, he experienced a tragic boat explosion that killed his wife and his two oldest kids. And, only himself and his youngest child survived that accident. And they reenacted this experience and it was just so moving to see the impact that the gospel had had in this region and hundreds of villages that had gathered there and were, you know reenacting this story and you could see how meaningful it was to them and how their lives had been impacted in such powerful ways. There was about seven or eight churches that were represented there plus other folk from villages that weren't connected to a church. And just to see what God had done in those 72 years was It's hard to put into words really, but it was an experience of a lifetime.

And yeah, I just feel very grateful and thankful to the Lord to be a part of an experience like that and to be able to, Following those footsteps of the pioneers that have gone before us that sacrificed so much.

You know, I mean, while I was there, I, you know, I'm in a village here, there's no electricity, there's no internet, there's no hot water. Every meal was the exact same meal. You know, a bit of rice and a pumpkin and a potato for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, you know, these are just such small things.

But to think what it would have been like for these pioneers and these missionaries, like you mentioned, Jared, who went out and, sacrifice so much for the sake of the gospel. It was an inspiring thing to be a part of. And, and I mean, that's just aside from the PNG for Christ experience as well, which was also moving in and of itself.

So yeah, God really blessed, had a lot of fun.

Awesome. Yeah, you probably, I'm sure, grew up hearing all these stories from PNG, but to actually go there and see the effect of your grandfather's legacy and his actions, I'm sure just hit a different spot. I guess, growing up, hearing these stories and Now, seeing what he's done, how has that impacted your own faith or sense of direction?

Yeah, for me growing up, I was always inspired by the missionary stories. It always had an allure to me it had a caliber of Christianity that I felt that I hadn't really got a hold off, um, where you could see that what it took for these pioneers, for these missionaries to go out and to dedicate decades

of their lives, put aside comforts and a luxurious lifestyle from, you know, an Australian context. And to count that as nothing, it brings to mind that passage of scripture, where Moses says that he, he didn't count all the riches of Egypt. He put them aside, and this is what I think of when I think of these missionaries and these pioneers who went and put themselves in these positions, and it's only because of the love of Christ that can compel them to do that sort of a thing. And so I grew up hearing these stories and being really inspired by them number one from the level of sacrifice and Christian commitment, but number two, also the way that God moved and worked in their lives in such real and dramatic ways, which from a Western context can sometimes feel Out of reach.

Sometimes we think, you know, God worked in powerful and miraculous ways in the Bible. He's going to work in powerful and glorious ways at the second coming. But right here in this present moment, you know, we don't expect to see God moved in great and big and mighty ways, but it was their experience.

This was their day to day life. They were required to lean onto God. And as a result, God delivered in their life in very real and dramatic ways, miraculous ways, uh, so many stories as one of the stories that came from that region where I was preaching was when my grandfather first went up there. They would travel around to different villages

and he'd learnt the language Maltu to speak with them and he arrived at a village on one occasion and they all came rushing to talk to him. He was conversing with them and as he was conversing with them, a lady came up with a little baby and she was in tears. She was saying, can you help?

Can you help put the baby in his hands and it had turned out that just as they'd arrived, she said, my baby's died. Can you help? And he could hear them speaking in the background about, being a superstitious culture that maybe this death of the child was connected with the arrival

of my grandpa and he straight away knew that this could be a dangerous situation. And so he prayed for the child and asked God to deliver them and to bring him healing and health and return his life. And he started crying, the little baby started crying while he was praying.

And, this story spread in the region and was something that helped them take the gospel. Opened doors for the gospel in other regions. And it's a miraculous thing of God. It's a miracle of God that sometimes in our Western context, we just don't expect to see. But you know, they had to rely on God in very dangerous situations and God opened doors for the gospel to be shared.

For me though, growing up on the stories, like you said, Zanita, it was very theoretical, in the sense that like, I had no idea of the geography of PNG, um, but when you're on the ground, when you're in the locations, It just jumps, it's like a storybook that comes to life and see the people.

And, yeah, it really did come alive in just a huge way, which was one of the things that made it so impactful for me. I'm not someone that's very prone to emotion, quite a sturdy bloke often. But I was very moved by this experience. Being on the ground and seeing the fruits of the gospel and seeing these stories come to life and it's really given me a, I guess you could say a renewed passion, for the pioneer spirit and, kind of have me ticking over in my mind. How can I take this pioneer this missionary spirit into my everyday community, into my, sphere of influence.

We can be missionaries abroad and we can be missionaries right at home where God has placed us in our own spheres of influence and how can I take that same spirit of sacrifice and commitment that we see in so much of our South Pacific history? And so many families are touched by these missionary stories.

How can we take that and put it into our own homes? And so I've been mulling over that thought and it's, yeah, it's really come alive as we journeyed through this PNG for Christ experience.

And we might, peek at that a little later as well, Blair, just, we like to get practical on Record Live.

We say that every week and we do try and end the conversation in that space. But just before we get there, speaking of miraculous occurrences. I've heard many people have come back with their own faith stories. Do you have any examples of actually seeing God working in a way that you perhaps haven't seen before in your own ministry here in Australia, in PNG, that this experience has given you your own stories of mission and God's impact in that space.

I'd love if you could share a couple or one with us.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, there was so many experiences that took place while we're over there where I could just see God's hand at work. One of the couple of things I'll highlight is, seeing the commitment of the people in that country was really mind blowing to me.

We run a series of meetings for two weeks and I had people at my site in quite a remote area. People had walked for days. To be at this location, they were living in temporary shelters that they built out of bush materials and it was raining most of the night and most of the day. And so most, some of them was like literally standing up all night cause they couldn't lay down in their beds, because the water would be flowing through and stuff like this.

They're living in conditions that were really pretty rough, but they'd made the decision to be there to hike there from days away because it was so important to them to hear the word of God preached and shared and that level of hunger for God's word was really catching.

It really gave me pause to think about, do I have that level of hunger and thirst for God's word and for righteousness? So that on a base level was amazing to me to see. I was often drawing comparisons to my own culture in Australia and trying to, you identify some of the things have really set the PNG for Christ experience up to be such a success.

And I think this is part of the picture, a hunger for truth that was really amazing to see. And so what that translated into is, as we work throughout the series, I had a really intense schedule. I arrived a few days late because I was involved in a camp meeting that I wasn't able to be there right at the start.

And so I had to So I was doing 4 a. m. To 6 a. m. Meeting so we could do it in the morning with the projector and see the slides. And then I'd have a two hour baptismal preparation class with all of my folk, uh, do visitations through the day with people who were wanting to make decisions and then do evening meetings.

So it was very intense schedule. But in that process, they really like to milk you for all your worth. Um, but while I was there doing those visitations. And doing those baptismal preparation classes, there was particularly, opportunity to hear the stories of the people and this is where I really saw the hand of God in really powerful and miraculous ways.

I mean, just to list a couple of situations, people who had been in multiple relationships and had felt the call of God to, align their lives with the call of scripture, and were making decisions to change their whole lifestyle to align with God's word. People who were from other denominations, who were growing up on the traditions of Sunday sacredness and doctrines around never ending Hell and state of the dead and all sorts of things that were foreign and different to them.

But as they encountered the truths of God's word, they said, I want to follow Jesus voice wherever that leads me. They came into and made that commitment to follow Jesus's voice wherever it led them. It was really amazing to see.

There was a disabled lady on my side who couldn't walk, but she'd gotten on a bike and been pushed on a bike through knee deep mud for days to get to these meetings. And then she had made a decision to be baptized. She couldn't walk to the waters of baptism, but they pushed her on her bike down to the waters of baptism.

Nothing would stop her, right? Nothing would hold her back from making that decision that she felt God had called her to make to be baptized and to walk through the waters of baptism. And yeah, there was a particular person on my site who had a blindness issue. And as they were baptized, they came out of the water and eyesight had been restored from after their baptism. And so that was just amazing, amazing examples of God's hand in people's lives. And I love what Ellen White says. One of the, greatest miracles is the miracle of a transformed life. Someone's whose life is changed and transformed. And I saw that miracle over and over again, visited, uh, As I talked with the folk who were making the decisions and I could see this wasn't just some offhand casual go with the flow decision.

This was a life altering decision. One of the ladies who made the decision to be baptized in my site, the night before the baptism was Friday night. We were preparing to baptize her on Sabbath morning. She was stabbed by her husband that night, and unfortunately, she was unable to make it through the baptism.

She was emergently flown out on a plane. But, you know, she was making a decision to follow Jesus no matter the cost. And I saw that time and time again, and in that level of commitment and I I could see the hand of God on people's lives. And it was a wonderful experience to be part of.

Wow. Some of those stories. Incredible. I can't help, but wonder as someone who has never been to Papa new Guinea or never been to PNG for Christ, like both of you have, where does this hunger actually come from? In Australia and probably much of the west we have endless resources to learn about the character of God and to see the credibility of the Bible.

And so on. We have podcasts and books and conferences and everything. Uh, is it just because they have more obvious needs or where do you think that hunger and desire to hit the gospel comes from?

Yeah, really good question. I think A couple of things I've been reflecting on. I think God's not limited in a culture where there's a large degree of illiteracy.

There's not many access to Bible. A lot of the folk on my sites didn't have Bibles. That was quite similar across PNG. I understand, especially in the more of the remote areas. And so, in these Contexts, the very best way to get to know God is through special revelation through his written word.

And, this is the very best, but in contexts is where that's not always accessible or possible. God's not limited by this. And he speaks through general revelations and, through, miraculous events and these sorts of things. It's not the best way because it can be counterfeited, but it is still a way and God can still reach people's lives.

And so, yeah, I think that you know, we can see this, but in terms of the question around, how do we get that hunger and what are some of these differences? I think the couple of things really jumped out to me. Number one, they live very simple lives. They, at least where I was in the village, right?

They, a typical day was gardening, making and eating your meals, spending time with each other. And in Australia, we have very complex lives. And that simplicity. I think when you have so much complexity, you can crowd out that space in your life for meaningful spiritual connection.

That was one thing I think they were very in the area where I was particularly, they were very poor, they don't have many resources. And in that environment, You need to rely on God and my friend, my good friend, Julian Archer writes a book 'Help. I've been blessed.' You might have seen it.

He makes a really powerful point. Picking up on what Jesus taught. It's hard for the rich man to enter into heaven, not that God's against richness, but that those things can crowd out our lives and make it difficult to hunger and thirst for righteousness and abundance of resources we rely on our own.

resources. We don't need to rely on God. And so I saw this as a key thing, I think that sets them up for success. They don't have TV, they don't have smartphones, none of them, like there was, I saw about five smartphones on my site the whole time. They don't have these distractions and these sorts of things.

And then I think as well in the church, they, their church members believe in evangelism. These are poor churches, but they scrounged up people a lot of money to put together to put this evangelism on and every single church member was there. They were all there. They were bringing their friends. They believed in evangelism. They expected big things to take place. And sometimes, you know, we can say, we can have the posture in Australia that evangelism doesn't work, or whatever. And It's no wonder if it doesn't work, if we can become a self fulfilling prophecy when we don't have that bold faith, and that prayer life.

I mean, I saw these guys are praying big, bold prayers, expecting answers, rains coming along and they're praying, God, stop the rain. Like there's levels of faith and boldness and Expectation for God to move that was really inspiring.

And, you know, not having entertainment and not having all these other distractions create space, you know, this was the main event. So they're all there, they're there cause they're, that's what's on and they're hungering and they're thirsting for it. And probably one more point that jumped out to me on that is that I think there's something to a natural environment. These guys are living in natural environments.

We're often living in very built up urban environments. I think of John the Baptist, John the Baptist, when he preached, he didn't go into the major metropolis areas. Why didn't he, he preached out in the wilderness. Why did he do that? That's not where the people were. He preached out there because I think, and, there's some great inspired counsel on this as well, that he was using the opportunity to yet let nature and a natural environment soften the heart, prepare people for spiritual responses and the busyness and crowdedness and complexity of those built up industrial, context, commercialism can really deaden some of those spiritual perceptions. So look, I think it's multifaceted. I don't think we can give a perfect answer, but thinking through some of these points, like what is it that gives them that hunger?

I think some of these points that we've just been thinking about is sets them up for success spiritually. And how can we take some of those things and try to apply it in our context to set ourselves up for success spiritually? I think there's some great lessons that we can take and learn there as well.

Just to go back to the idea of legacy and I guess get a bit philosophical for a moment. There is a push, which I think is good around the world to localize, church run institutions. So there's less and less mission opportunities for people from Australia and New Zealand potentially. But it does seem like, and speaking to you today sort of reinforces the idea that we're losing something in.

That we can't learn from these contexts because we're not there working in those spaces. And what did they lose from us? I guess being part of that process as well, the cross pollination of mission, and the sharing of different ideas and techniques and inspiration of seeing God working in different contexts.

I feel like we've lost something in terms of the missionary spirit in the church in this part of the world. Can you speak to that a little bit in terms of your experience. Now you've seen what it's like in Papua, New Guinea. We've reflected on some of the things we can learn, but how does the church go forward when, you know, yes, there might've been some mistakes from missionaries in the past, but at the same time, it gave so much richness to our church to have that cross pollination.

So what, yeah. What are your thoughts in that space?

Yeah, it's a great, great point you're bringing up, Jared. I think there, there is something that we miss when we don't do cross cultural ministry and missionary work, we have much to learn from. Other cultures and other cultures have much to learn from us.

I think this is a part of why a big picture of the story of scripture is every nation, tribe, tongue, and people coming together because we can moderate those cultural weaknesses. And learn from those cultural strengths that each culture does have looking at having just experienced being over in the culture in Papua, New Guinea, there's so many lessons that I've taken back to my own home and my own culture that I could not have learned in my monoculture where I have been and vice versa, uh, there's been lessons that

the folk were able to take and glean from me that they may not have been able to learn as quickly or as readily in their monoculture. And so we rub shoulders, we sharpen one another. Proverbs 27, 17 says, we, you know, we, as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the countenance of his friends. So we, this is, I think God's designed us to be able to work cross culturally and to sharpen each other. And that can happen on a cross cultural sense. So I do think we miss something if we don't take that missionary spirit. Yes. We should be missionaries in our own backyard. I never want to knock that. But there's also a place, I believe, for missionary work in other cultures and the lessons we can learn from that.

I mean, one of the big takeaways, for example, that I took when I was over in PNG, one of the things that really astounded me and hit me was they don't have any pastors, hardly any. They've got a few, and that might sound like a really bad thing. If you said in Australia, there's no pastors, people are like, Oh, how did the churches run?

And they're like, well, you know what, what happens, you know, but I actually believe this was one of their biggest strengths. And one of the things that set them up for success so much because it's the lay people, it was the elders, it was the local leaders that were running the churches and the pastors were out having 18 churches of a region, raising up new churches, focusing on evangelism and church growth.

And the local churches, The leaders themselves were engaged in doing the work of ministry. I loved this. One of our young adults from North New South Wales went over and he was explained to him that he was a Bible worker and they were like, Oh, what's a Bible worker? And he starts to explain, Oh, you know, I go, I give Bible studies and I go to church and I lead people to Christ.

And he's like, Oh, Oh, Oh, a lay person. They're like, Oh, you're a lay person. Amen. Amen. That is awesome. Like they didn't have this concept of a Bible worker, but when he would describe it, they're like, Oh, that's just a church member. That's a disciple of Jesus. That's exactly the point. In our Australian context, we can, you know, it's the pastor's job to evangelize, to put on the entertainment show.

We come to church to be entertained or consume a product, and this, this is all backwards. This is not actually the main point of what church is all about. And when we realized that church is about giving and discipling. And we, as lay people, as members are to be disciples, leading people to Christ. That's not the pastor's job. Well, it is his job too. It's not the Bible workers job. It's every disciple of Jesus's job. So yeah, we learn these lessons right across these different cultures and things. And I think that's really important for us to do. And, uh, let's keep doing it in, in appropriate ways.

Yes, there's been mistakes in the past, but that shouldn't negate. the importance of continuing to do mission in different areas and growing with each other as we do that.

Um, so good. Getting practical Blair, we have, run out of time. You shared with us a little bit already, but can you leave something with our listeners something practical that people can do um, to bring that pioneer missionary spirit into their own spheres of influence.

Yeah, absolutely. Look, I think there is nothing that can fire you up for God more than leading someone to Jesus. And so how can you take that pioneer missionary spirit to your own home? Find someone in your community, in your sphere of influence. And trust me, it won't be hard.

The Bible tells us that the harvest is plentiful. The harvest is plentiful, friends. Even in Australia, the harvest is plentiful. It's the workers that are few, Scripture tells us. And so find someone in your community, in your church. One of the best places to find Bible study contacts, people who haven't been baptized or haven't studied the Bible, is in your own church.

The young people there, or other folk. Find someone in your sphere of influence who doesn't know Jesus fully or at all and lead them into a relationship with Jesus, teach them, take them through a series of Bible says, you don't have to be an expert, you don't have to know all the answers, pick up a set of study guides and go through them together.

And, as you pray for that person, as you study the Bible and open scripture with them and lead them to Jesus. That will fire you up and that will, put a fire in your belly for Christ and his cause. This is God's designed us. This is the job, the role of the church. And when we operate in our area of design, our purpose, we thrive and we feel a sense of fulfillment and mission.

And so, yeah, lead someone to Christ and you'll catch the bug. The pioneer bug, the missionary bug, and you won't be able to put it aside. And you'll just want to lead another person to Jesus and another person. You'll suddenly see that Jesus is helping you to change your interests and your passions.

And more than anything else, you just want to lead people to Jesus. And I think that's the pioneer, the missionary spirit that we can all have.


It's been really great to chat with you, today. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences and may we all. Go forward from this conversation with that missionary spirit, that passion and that burning desire to lead people to Jesus. Cause that's, as you said, what the church is all about.

Uh, God bless you until we meet again next week. And we'll see you again on record live. Awesome. God bless guys.

Thanks Blair.

Thanks Blair.

Missionary Roots and Modern Impact
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