Outback outreach

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The 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.

Fifteen to 20 years ago we had been trying to reach them and we had interest but now it’s really concrete.

Mungkarta Aboriginal community, 75km south of Tennant Creek, is one of the new, previously “untapped” areas. The community has had a number of contacts with Adventists, including a literature evangelist, gospel singers, Bible workers and pastors. This led to an evangelistic series in March, resulting 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 remote area senior pastor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Ministries (ATSIM).

“One of the exciting things is that it has happened so rapidly. 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 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.”

Pastors Don Fehlberg (left) and David Gilmore (right) baptism a member of the Mungkarta community.

Pastor Gilmore’s territory—extending some 900 kilometres from Finke to Tennant Creek—includes 300 of the estimated 1028 Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory.

“There are a lot of communities along the highway between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs,” he 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, 25 kilometres from Mungkarta, and included the community’s two spiritual leaders Simon Moore and his brother-in-law Lance Duggie, along with their wives.

Early on in his Christian journey, Mr Moore had a dream where God instructed him to read Exodus 20:8. When he later shared his dream with Mr Duggie, he was surprised to discover that his brother-in-law had also been “impressed by God” to read the Ten Commandments. It convicted the pair that the seventh day is the Sabbath.

Pastor 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.”

Pastor Darren Slade presents a certificate.

Mamarapha College (WA) is also playing a key role “in what is happening in the field”, according to Pastor Fehlberg. “Lance and Simon are coming to Mamarapha this year. 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.

“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.”


Tracey Bridcutt is head of editorial for Adventist Media.