Record Rewind: Abide with me

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Gordon Brandstater was born to Emanuel and Wilhelmina (nee Darko) Brandstater on October 22, 1896. Born into the Adventist message, as a boy Gordon attended the first Adventist school in Australia, located in Collinsvale, Tasmania.

After leaving school he worked in the sawmill industry. A miraculous escape from death in a logging accident convinced him that the Lord had a plan for his life. So he attended Avondale College for five years before graduating in 1917 with a teaching diploma.

Gordon Branster.

Entering denominational service at the end of 1917, Gordon taught at the Marrickville church school in Sydney for a little more than two years before being appointed to mission service in Fiji.

Gordon married Idarene Felsch in January 1920 and, in time, three children were born: Russell (1921) and Marjorie (1924), both in Suva, Fiji, and Beryl (1926) in Sydney.

Before leaving for Fiji in January 1920, Gordon changed his surname from Brandstater to Branster.

In Fiji, Gordon was a teacher on the Wainibuka River, quickly learning the language and, enjoying music, often used his rich baritone voice in his worship services. He also started the first brass band in the country, which the music-loving Fijian people really enjoyed. Later Gordon was to serve at the Navuso Central School and in the Naqia and Buca Bay districts. Gordon’s service record also notes that during this initial posting to Fiji he became a district director. Gordon was ordained to gospel ministry in Tasmania in January 1926. On his return to Australia, he was a pastor-evangelist in the South NSW Conference from December 1934 until March 1938.

Gordon and his family returned to Fiji in April 1938, this time as a pastor-evangelist, remaining in that post until August 1940 when Gordon became the superintendent of the North Queensland Mission. From October 1941, Gordon was president of the Queensland Conference. In December 1943, he returned to the South NSW Conference, this time as president, and continued in that role for five years until the end of 1948.

For the next decade, Gordon was president of the newly established Central Pacific Union Mission, based in Suva. Travel around Polynesia was difficult and time-consuming in those days. Pitcairn Island was a particular challenge. With no regular shipping service, visitors to the island had to depend on passing cargo freighters and passenger ships willing to stop and let visitors on or off the vessels.

On one occasion, Gordon took six weeks to get to Pitcairn. The weather when the ship reached the island was so bad he could not get off the ship. He stayed on board until the vessel reached Panama and then had to find a vessel willing to let him off as it passed Pitcairn. In his eventual five weeks on the island Gordon provided pastoral ministry and conducted a baptism.

At the end of 1958, Gordon returned to Australia where, after a short time in pastoral work in the North NSW Conference, he retired in 1960 having accumulated a little more than 42 years of denominational service.

During retirement (south of Newcastle), Gordon remained active in local church work, especially with the placement of hundreds of copies of Your Bible and You in the region’s motels. His funeral on March 25, 1987, concluded with the hymn “Abide With Me”. For 100 years it had been a tradition in the Branster family to close Sabbath each week with the singing of that hymn so it seemed fitting to the family to sing it once again at that time as the postlude to an effective life of Christian service.

Dr Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education.

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