COVID-19 infection risks, border restrictions and ongoing uncertainty have forced the cancellation of thanksgiving events scheduled in October to mark 70 years of service through Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS).
Planned events included a thanksgiving dinner at Bonegilla Migrant Centre, Victoria, where LCA/NZ’s overseas aid and development agency began through the service of Lutheran Pastor Bruno Muetzelfeldt to migrants newly arrived from war-shattered Europe. Other events now cancelled included a 26-kilometre Walk My Way, tours of Bonegilla and Sunday thanksgiving worship at local Lutheran churches.
ALWS Community Action Manager, Jonathan Krause, said ‘as the COVID-19 crisis worsened, particularly in Victoria, ALWS needed to put the health of supporters and visitors first, particularly as many were expected to be higher risk seniors’. ‘We surveyed ALWS supporters, and they told us very clearly that, while they were disappointed, they did not feel comfortable travelling’, he said.
Instead, ALWS is planning new ways to give thanks to God and acknowledge the support of the Australian and New Zealand Lutheran family. Worship resources are being prepared that churches can use for five minutes of thanksgiving on Sunday 18 October.
Meanwhile, the October issue of The Lutheran will feature the ministry of ALWS, from its origins to today’s lifesaving work that last year helped nearly 300,000 people across Asia and East Africa.
ALWS Board Chair, Jodie Hoff, said despite Somalia, South Sudan and Burundi being among the poorest and most dangerous countries on earth, ‘through ALWS our Lutheran church is there, sharing God’s love by bringing food to the hungry, clean water for those who are thirsty, and welcome for those regarded as strangers, or who are overlooked or ignored’.
‘This can only happen because of the amazing love and generosity of thousands of people, humbling living out their faith in practical action’, she said. ‘Our ALWS 70th is about recognising ALWS supporters who have given so much, acknowledging the efforts of ALWS staff over 70 years, and above all giving thanks to our gracious God in whose name we go and grow.’
ALWS also hopes in future to support Bonegilla Migrant Centre to include a physical acknowledgement of the Lutheran ministry there and the beginnings of ALWS. If you have stories, memories and photos from Bonegilla, please contact ALWS on 1300 763 407 or go to alws.org.au