Going GREYT! 1 Peter 4:10
In Going GREYT! we feature stories of some of our ‘more experienced’ people within the LCA, who have been called to make a positive contribution in their retirement. We pray their examples of service will be an inspiration and encouragement to us all as we look to be Christ’s hands and feet wherever we are, with whatever gifts and opportunities we’ve been given.
One of the first wood carvings Albert Noll ever created was a carved wooden message: ‘Blessed by the grace of God’.
It was two years ago, just before turning 90, that Albert tried out the scroll saw at his local men’s shed at Waikerie in South Australia’s Riverland.
The sawn message has not only remained a favourite carving, but its creation instilled in him a passion for this new hobby.
It’s also turned into an unexpected fundraiser for Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS).
Faced with requests to sell his carvings, most of which are Christian-themed wooden ornaments, 92-year-old Albert felt uncomfortable making money from his hobby. So, he decided to direct the funds towards something else that has always brought him joy – raising money for ALWS.
A couple of hundred carvings later and he’s already raised more than $800 from giving his wares to friends and local groups in return for a donation.
Albert’s farming background means he’s always been good with his hands, turning odds and ends from the shed into useful fixes.
He used the shed men’s scroll saw to make name tags out of wood for everyone attending his 90th birthday in January 2020.
‘Then I bought my own scroll saw and that’s when I started making my crosses and religious signs, seeking inspiration from books’, Albert says.
Albert has been inspired by his love of wood – sourcing a range of wood including walnut, mallee, redgum or black oak so hard it breaks a lot of saw blades!
‘I was walking through the property of a friend, Graham Smith, when we found a whole acacia wattle tree that I’ve cut into timber with a band saw 10 to 15 millimetres wide’, recalls Albert. That’s become the fodder for much of his wood carving to date.
‘I can look at a piece of wood and image something into it’, he says. ‘One of my favourite ones is a dove cut out overlayed into the top of a cross – it involves two different coloured pieces of wood.’
It usually takes Albert just as long to finish a piece as it does to cut it, the finishing work including sanding the piece smooth and varnishing it with four coats of varnish. Some pieces take him only a few hours in total, while others require many hours of work. ‘If I charged an hourly rate, ALWS would be the richer’, he says cheekily.
‘It’s just an offshoot of what I have done all my life. If we were farming and something broke, you just went and you made it. I have made some weird and wonderful pieces of machinery!’
He gets requests from people for his wooden creations and a popular one is a carving of a man in an outside lounge chair saying: ‘It’s not my problem, retired’. But most are Christian ornaments.
And, as a longtime supporter of ALWS, he’s pleased his handiwork can support the mission of the LCA’s overseas aid and development agency to bring love to life for people hurt by poverty, injustice and crisis.
Albert’s also been shaped by a strong faith nurtured in the congregation he’s been a member of since birth in 1930 – Bethlehem Lutheran Church at Murbko, about halfway between Morgan and Blanchetown on the eastern side of the River Murray.
The little white stone church at Murbko was built with hand-cut Murray cliff stone on land which was donated by his great-grandfather, Christian August Noll, in 1904.
Christian Noll was also the first person buried in the nearby church cemetery in 1906.
Albert and his wife of 66 years, Gladys, drive a round trip of 70km, past two other Lutheran churches, to worship at Murbko each Sunday, in a parish led by Pastor Peter Traeger, who also serves three other congregations in the region.
There may only be 10 members at Bethlehem now, ‘but we still manage to make our local budget’, says Albert, who is congregational treasurer and chairman, as well as curator of the church cemetery. He’s giving up his second stint as chairman at this year’s annual general meeting.
He’ll keep up his treasurer duties, assisted by the clever spreadsheets set up by their daughter Meredith, a retired accountant, to assist his task.
Albert and Gladys, 88, feel blessed that they remain living independently and still both drive. Their faith has supported them through tough times, including the loss of two of their three children in separate car accidents.
Crafting wood has been a comfort and solace in these past few years.
‘Six years ago, it was confirmed that I have Parkinson’s. It was diagnosed so early that I can manage it well’, Albert says. ‘I can still get a glass of port up to my lips without spilling it.
‘If I keep myself busy with the woodwork it helps every time. It keeps my brain busy and my hands busy.’
And, as Gladys says: ‘A lot of love goes into it’.
Helen Brinkman is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world.
Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor email@example.com