Preaching' in Australia (II)

Robert F. Turner
Sherrard Burnet, Texas

"Loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia ---" only it was Melbourne, Victoria from whence we loosed; and we sailed (in a jet) to the island of Tasmania, 27,000 square miles of beautiful country, ca. 250 miles south of the Mainland. My "company" was Tommy Poarch, his wife, Wickie, and small son, Hobby. I flew to Launceston, by invitation of the church there, for nine days of personal work and preaching, Feb. 13-21. Brother Poarch was beginning a three-month stay, to work with the brethren in a follow-up program.

Tasmania is thoroughly British (or so it seemed to me) and Launceton is a Victorian type city, beautifully located on the Tamar river, in an urban area of about 60,000 people. In 1964 brother and sister Martin broke with the "Associated" church and, with help from the U.S., began a neat brick building on their property. The Grimditch family, from England, joined them in the effort, and new converts were made. Now seventeen or more saints worship there. When the infamous Marvin Phillips letter was sent out from Perth, 1967, "warning" Australians against brethren Jim Everett and Bob Harkrider Brother Harkrider replied with an open letter, admirably setting forth his right to preach the gospel, and stating clearly what he believed. Brethren Martin, Grimditch, and others in Launceston, appreciated Bob's attitude and use of the scriptures, and invited him to visit them. When I arrived I found they had read the "Arlington Meeting" book, and were well informed.

British conservatism is strong here, manifesting itself in a humble, "saints-only" type of morning worship on Lord's Day, with someone "presiding" and the song-leader keeping his seat with the rest of the worshippers. I felt no desire to try and Americanize this sincere service-in fact I felt we could learn 'something from it. I preached, upon invitation only; and respected their decision to leave Monday and Tuesday nights open for home studies. A contact on Monday led to "midnight" studies, and following further lengthy home studies on the next Lord's Day, the lady of the house was baptized. (Her husband has since been baptized, according to a recent letter.) There were three other non-member visitors during the mission.

In August, 1969, a liberal preacher from the U.S. came to work with these saints and, upon arrival showed utter stupidity (for want of a better term) by announcing that the building must be carpeted, seats changed, etc. He was soon dismissed, and is now meeting elsewhere in the city, with a small number he has influenced. I am told he plans a U.S. type "Campaign" in the city, but this will not shake the Newnham church. They will continue their quiet worship, and solid program of teaching and baptizing people into Christ. It was with heavy heart that I bid these saints "Good-bye!" and lifted into the night for flight to Melbourne.

Wagga Wagga, N.S.W.

The next day a modern train brought me 280 miles north of Melbourne, to the city whose name means "many crows." Wagga Wagga is a thriving "sheep and cattle" town of 25,939 people, located on the Muruinbidgee River. In 1968 when brother and sister Harold Blyth broke with the "Associated" church, they met in Tarcutta (20 miles from Wagga) with interested friends, and discussed "Christ's Plan For Christian Unity." A few were determined to begin a New Testament church there, close to the homes of two families. But Tarcutta is only a village of 900 people, and when brother Jim Sasser (U.S.) moved to Wagga, these saints decided to accept the inconvenience of distance in order to establish the cause of Christ in a place of greater opportunity. In turn, brother Sasser not only works in Wagga, but conducts a radio program and worship services in Wodonga, Vic. (about 90 miles distance) with saints there, and visits the Blyth and Kelly "ranches" near Tarcutta, for frequent home studies.

Our "mission" in Wagga was conducted in the saint's regular meeting place, a basement room in the W-2 Radio Bldg., and was well supported by saints from Albury, Wodonga and Tarcutta. We had 17 non-member visitors during the mission, (including a drunk who wandered in, and bad to be invited to a back seat). There were no baptisms during the meeting but interest was high, and God's Word will not fail to leave its mark. Fourteen saints meet regularly in Wagga, and two families (5 or 6 saints) meet in Wodonga, with the Valk family (Dutch) a stabilizing force. Prospects for the Lord's church in this section appear to be very good.

Sydney, N.S.W. (Port Hacking Church, Miranda Suburb)

When Jim Everett and Bob Harkrider arrived in Sydney (1968) a letter from Brother Allan Flaxman, Lakemba congregation, asked that they not attend any service there. (The Phillips letter, and other carnal potions, worked their evil leaven.) I have a copy of another letter (May, 1967) addressed to an Australian preacher who, Flaxman says, continued to 'halt between two opinions'--and he is told, "it is far better for the happiness and security of the Lakemba Church, that you also refrain from attending our services." With such a spirit, it is not hard to see why the Lakemba church disfellowshipped brother Harry Henderson for questioning some of their practices. ,Here is sectarianism gone to seed-a spirit which did not "work" so well among the independently thinking Australians as it had among the soft masses of U.S. church members, who would rather swallow the 11 quarantine" pill than try to produce authority for their "brotherhood" projects.

In a city of nearly 3 million people there is no lack of space and opportunity to preach, so the Caringbah section was selected as a likely spot, and after meeting in several Halls, a piece of property was purchased in nearby Miranda. Here we should pay tribute to the work of brethren McDaniel, Sewell Hall, and Howard Thompson, who had much to do with beginning and encouraging this church. The Everetts, Harkriders, Hendersons, and others worked hard, and now 25 or 30 saints meet there, with attendance up to 40 to 45 on Lord's Day. Phil Morr (U.S.) preaches there now, and is assisted by a young Australian preacher, Brother Max Burgin. I flew in from Wagga Wagga, (305 miles) on Monday, Mar. 1, and began the mission that night. Interest was high from the first, and we had at least 14 non-member visitors. Contacts and studies made during the mission led to three baptisms shortly thereafter. On Saturday, morning, Mar. 6, 1 presented a sort of marathon lecture, 9:00 a.m. to 12:20 p.m., of Bible and secular history concerning God's people, and their affairs. We had an attentive audience of local people and visitors from Wollongong and Newcastle.

Since Sydney is port of entry for many Americans, we here give current contacts and addresses for the Sydney church. Building: 98 Wyralla Road, Miranda, N.S.W. 2228; preacher: Phil A. Morr, P.O. Box 52, Caringbab, N.S.W. 2229; Brother Morr's residence: 18 Koorabel Ave., Gymea, N.S.W. 2227, phone 525-4598; local contact: Harry Henderson, 5 Houston Street, Gymea, N.S.W. 2227.

Phil Morr and Max Burgin made preparation contacts in Wollongong, and came night after night to lead singing and assist in other ways. Jim Sasser came 275 miles to assist in the mission in Melbourne. Tommy Poarch moved his family, and gave three months of his time to the work in Tasmania. Phil and Max shuttled back and forth, Sydney to Newcastle (112 miles), Sydney to Armidale (358 miles), Sydney to Inverell (478 miles), taking turns assisting in the missions, and trying to keep up their work in Sydney. Max made an arduous journey via car to enable me to make connections with a plane in Brisbane (he must have driven 900 miles that day) and then I flew into Bundaberg at 7:32, for a mission that started at 7: 3 0 p.m. (Changed clothes in a back room, while they "sang another song" out front.)

Brother Rolly McDowell came from Bundaberg to Newcastle (ca. 760 miles) to assist in personal work (he was a major instrument in converting a Jehovah's Witness) and then, following the two-week mission in Bundaberg, Rolly and Phil preceded me to Emerald (385 miles from Bundy, 1,298 from Sydney) to make houseto-house calls, pass out tracts, and assist in the one-week mission there. This meant a lot of traveling for everyone, but then I did not go to Australia for a "vacation." There is little way to measure the value of Holly McDowell-Australian, , and excellent worker for the Lord-at one's side as one seeks to convert an Australian stranger. Or the value of Harry Wyer, another Australian preacher, in a church situation about which I understood but little, and among people whose customs I understood even less. Or the travel companionship of Max Burgin, son of the widely known and respected Australian preacher, Les Burgin, and gospel preacher in his own rights. I loved the Australian people, and yearned to be "one of them"; but Australian go-betweens made this a practical reality.

Rolly McDowell is the only conservative Australian preacher fully supported from the U.S. Brother Harry Wyer receives a check now and then from America, but he and Max Burgin are chiefly dependent upon the labor of their hands, and such support as is available in Australia. All three_ men recognize the need to impress home responsibilities upon the saints there; and they have already shown that they intend to preach the gospel, money or no money. In my judgment, some additional U.S. money could be wisely spent upon the support of such men. The demands upon all three are far greater than the ordinary demands upon a preacher in a stable home-town situation, and they have show their willingness to be spent for the Lord.

(More to follow, as the tour into northern New South Wales, and Queensland, is described)

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 36, pp. 9-11
July 22, 1971