From the vastness of Antarctic mountain landscapes, to the rich diversity of the Galapagos Islands, Bunty Meyer has felt the awe of God’s creation throughout his adventurous life.
And just as the Psalmist marvels at the work of God’s hands, so the 84-year-old New Zealander has appreciated his opportunities to admire God’s handiwork.
It was 1980 when Bunty first stepped foot on Antarctica to rebuild the sleeping accommodation at Scott Base, New Zealand’s science station in Antarctica. A return trip to the continent’s McMurdo Dry Valleys in 1984 took him to the majestic Dias, a geological formation which rises above the Wright Valley, where Bunty recalls: ‘I swear I felt the presence of God’.
‘I expected to see a burning bush or hear a voice tell me to take my boots off because “this is holy ground”.’
This amazing moment is part of a rich tapestry that makes up Bunty’s life. It is a life grounded in a deep faith which was recognised this year through the Lutheran Church of Australia’s Servant of Christ Award, for 60 years of humble and faithful service to the church.
It was a huge honour for Bunty, born Kenneth Evan Meyer in 1935 to farming parents in Raetihi in the central North Island.
By 1954, when the then 21-year-old moved 240 kilometres north to the picturesque city of Hamilton, Bunty recalls petrol selling for one pound for six gallons ($2 for 27 litres) and countryman Edmund Hillary being celebrated just months earlier for climbing the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest.
By then, Bunty was making enough money shearing sheep to buy his first beloved Chevrolet car. It was also at about that time that the Lutheran Church of New Zealand investigated building a church for Hamilton’s St Matthew Lutheran congregation.
The congregation had been meeting in the city’s YMCA building for weekly worship. It wasn’t long before the young Bunty joined his father Louis and a core group of members, to build the church.
So began the New Zealander’s lifelong service to his local community (and his lifelong love of large American cars).
It was ‘all hands on deck’ for the church construction, which was made watertight in time for its official dedication on 8 September 1957.
‘It was all volunteer labour apart from the bricklaying’, Bunty recalls. ‘My dad put down the flooring … he must have made a good job because it’s still there and it doesn’t creak!’
Four years later Bunty wed the ‘attractive and vivacious’ Wilma, and together they raised four children. God helped them through the death of their second daughter Andrea in a road accident in 1988.
The 1980s’ deregulation of New Zealand’s oil industry led to Bunty and Wilma selling their Shell service station to see more of the world.
‘We purchased a motorhome, the first of about five, and saw a lot of our beautiful country’, Bunty says.
That was followed by a two-month cruise across the Pacific, and on from Tahiti to London, taking in the Pitcairn, Galapagos and Easter islands, as well as the Panama Canal, the Azores islands and on to England.
‘A great trip, and it gave an insight into God’s creation’, says Bunty.
His busy work life, which had also included running the family sheep farm and working in the dairy industry, did not hinder Bunty’s involvement in most aspects of church life, from serving on committees and as a small group study leader, to youth group facilitator and lay reader.
His long involvement in working bees even extended to modernising the St Matthew church manse.
In the 1990s Bunty extended his volunteer roles southward, to the St David’s Lutheran congregation in the small town of Taumarunui, 160 kilometres south of Hamilton. As the congregation was without a pastor, Bunty led monthly services, often accompanied by Wilma, until congregational numbers forced the closure of the church in October 2008.
A former member at St David’s, Judy Barker, recalls the spiritual support he provided to the Taumarunui locals.
‘For many years he steadfastly provided spiritual nourishment as well as good down-to-earth friendship’, Judy says. ‘Throughout his time both in Taumarunui and in his
ongoing membership at St Matthew in Hamilton, his love for God has been reflected in his love and commitment to his fellow Christians, and his family, and we give thanks to God for this!’
Blessed with seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, Bunty suffered a stroke last year which curtailed many of his activities.
While service has been a hallmark of his life, the Servant of Christ award he received in March this year came as a complete surprise.
‘I felt totally unworthy of it, very proud, but very humbled’, he says. ‘The good Lord expects me to do something, so I just see what I can do.’
Quite fitting, given that a favourite hymn of Bunty’s is Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah.
Helen Beringen 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
This feature story comes from The Lutheran November 2019. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.
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