Sunday 6 October was ‘a day of great celebration’ for the people of St John’s Lutheran Church at Geelong in Victoria as James Ruei was ordained as a Specific Ministry Pastor to the South Sudanese community there.
Pastor James, himself a refugee from South Sudan, has been serving the congregation, including its 30 to 40 African members, in a lay capacity for 13 years. Initially a pastoral assistant, most recently he has been the South Sudanese ministry worker at St John’s.
Pastor James is one of more than 20 pastors and layworkers serving multicultural LCA communities through the church’s Cross-Cultural Ministry department of Local Mission.
Geelong’s Pastor Milton Fritsch said the ordination service was a really special event in the life of the whole congregation.
‘It was a day of great celebration – the church was full and South Sudanese people came from all over Victoria and beyond to be there’, Pastor Milton said.
LCA Bishop John Henderson ordained James and, in his sermon, encouraged the new pastor to continue to trust in God’s faithfulness and saving power in his ministry.
‘James, this will be your task’, Bishop John said. ‘Nourish the faith of the people. Serve them with the word of God, with the bread and wine, and the water of baptism. Like the mulberry tree, the impossible will happen. God will create saving faith. The kingdom of God will grow and flourish among us because of this ministry of faith.’
James Ruei was born in 1978 in what is now South Sudan, but left the war-ravaged country as a young boy and spent approximately 20 years in refugee camps in western Ethiopia before coming to Australia in the mid-2000s. He was baptised in Ethiopia in 1991 and has been a Lutheran since 1992. He has worked for Lutheran churches in various capacities, including while in refugee camps, since 1997.
After the ordination service, the St John’s church overflowed as hundreds of Nuer Christians from around Australia attended a combined service to mark the occasion. Pastors and leaders from many denominations presented Pastor James with gifts, and offered him words of encouragement and welcome to the ministry.
Pastor James, who has been chairperson of the Nuer Christian United Churches of Australia since 2018, said his new role is the fulfilment of his calling: ‘It increases my joy because that was my dream to serve as a pastor.’