High in the mountains of north-west Italy, I visited a humble little Bible college, where centuries ago, the Waldensians copied the Scriptures by hand and trained their young people to be missionaries for Christ. These students then travelled all over Europe sharing Jesus and sowing the seeds of truth.
In the hills south-east of Perth, there is another humble little Bible college called Mamarapha College. Aboriginal students come from all over Australia to learn about Jesus and the Bible, then they go back to their towns and communities sharing Jesus and sowing seeds of truth.
By God’s grace, Mamarapha College has made a huge impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries (ATSIM) work across Australia over the past 25 years. It has done this by:
• Training pastors and Bible workers
• Leading dozens of students to baptism
• Training lay people to share Jesus
• Opening many new communities to the Adventist message.
Mamarapha College students have greatly contributed to the baptisms of the first Adventists in many remote communities including Oodnadatta (SA), Finke (NT), Ali Curung (NT), Titjikala (NT), Ampilatwatja (NT), Maningrida (NT), Balgo (WA), Billiluna (WA), Ngumpan (WA) and Kunawarritji (WA).
Many people who come to Mamarapha College are not Seventh-day Adventist church members. They come simply because they want to learn more about the Bible, but before long, many want to be baptised and join the Church.
We know that if God establishes work in a new place and we have people from there attending Mamarapha, the work is more likely to go forward—the Mungkarta Community and Finke in the Northern Territory are perfect examples. We also know that a church, company or group that has people attending Mamarapha will be strengthened. They will most likely see people more faithfully attending church, more baptisms and more members taking leadership. This has happened in places including Port Augusta (SA), Tennant Creek (NT), Newman (WA), Spalding Family Fellowship in Geraldton (WA), South Kempsey Aboriginal Church (NSW) and Karla Bidjar (WA).
Mamarapha students are also sharing with people in communities including Kenmore Park, Titjikala, Santa Teresa and Mt Liebig, and they have supported Pastor David Fletcher’s evangelistic series in Oodnadatta. It is students who have witnessed to family in Mimili in the APY Lands of northern South Australia and have now seen two people baptised from there and two more have made their decision. I could go on and on! Mamarapha’s impacts reach very far and very wide.
Finke—one example of many
Pastor Eric Davey and myself made our first trip to Aputula Community (Finke) in 2002 because Lorraine Ferguson from Port Augusta was telling us there were people there who wanted to attend Mamarapha College. Lorraine had grown up in Finke and was sharing her new-found Adventist faith with the people there as well as sharing about Mamarapha. Marlene Doolan and Sandra Churchill were the first two students to attend, but over the years 33 people from that community have attended Mamarapha College—Finke’s total population is only about 150!
In November 2003 it was Mamarapha students who requested we have the first Sabbath meeting in Finke, so we held it in a house. It was Mamarapha students who asked could they have a Sabbath church built in Finke and it was completed in 2012.
It was a Mamarapha student, Evelyn Churchill, who was the first person baptised from Finke. Over the years since, 48 more Finke people have been baptised!
It is Mamarapha trained students such as Evelyn Churchill, Susan Doolan and Sylvana Marks who are now leading the church meetings in Finke.
There has been a revival in Finke, largely led by Mamarapha students. Opposition from those in the community who disagree with our beliefs has driven our members to dig into their Bibles. Mancel Dougherty, the volunteer Bible worker living in Finke since 2013, has faithfully supported and encouraged the community. Young people and children have become involved in the church. God miraculously worked to convince Ronald of the truth of the Sabbath (see Record article “The three praying desert donkeys“).
Pastor David Gilmore, senior pastor for Alice Springs, Finke and Tennant Creek, came to Finke in May 2021 to run a week of outreach meetings and ended up running meetings simply to answer their Bible questions. This led to 17 people from Finke being baptised or re-baptised, including Ronald!
To put it simply, without Mamarapha College we probably wouldn’t be telling the Finke story, or many other similar stories.
I’ve only briefly touched on the people and places and ministries that have been impacted by Mamarapha. That humble little Bible college in the hills near Perth has transformed the ATSIM work in Australia. It has trained all of our current Indigenous leadership, strengthened many of our lndigenous churches and has opened many new communities to the Adventist message.
Mamarapha College is being used by God to take the everlasting gospel to some of Australia’s most isolated communities. We praise God and thank you for your support.
To learn more about Mamarapha College please visit mamarapha.adventist.edu.au. If you feel inspired to support the expansion of Mamarapha College, please give generously to this year’s Camp Mission Offering (Mamarapha College) on eGiving, or through your local church offering.
Pastor Don Fehlberg recently retired as remote area senior pastor and Mamarapha College liaison of ATSIM.