On Sunday, 15 November, at Kiwirrkura, which must surely be the most remote community of the Lutheran Church in Australia, 33-year-old Aboriginal man John West was ordained by LCA Bishop John Henderson.
Kiwirrkura, population 200, is in Western Australia, around 700 kilometres west of Alice Springs. It was established in the 1980s when the last of the Pintupi people came in from the desert. It is the most westerly community served by Finke River Mission (FRM).
Under azure sky and surrounded by vivid red dunes, more than 200 people gathered under gum trees and in 4WDs for the two-hour ordination service.
FRM support worker, Pastor Paul Traeger from Papunya, 400 kilometres east, carefully translated each part of Bishop Henderson’s address, based on Mark 13:1–8, into the local language, Pintupi-Luritja.
Ingkata (pastor) John West, who was born in Kintore, around 180 kilometres away, is married to Loretta and they have a son, Titus. He is a capable footballer, musician and accomplished hunter, and also helps with teaching at the local school.
Other ingkatas who supported the weekend celebration included Kiwirrkuru-based Jimmy Brown, who has been a mentor for John; Lindsay Corby and Joe Young from Kintore; Graham Poulson from Papunya; Roderick Kantamara from Mt Liebig; and Simon Dixon from Yirara College.
Bishop Henderson said, ‘John West is a remarkable young man who will be a great blessing to his community. The weekend strengthened my appreciation of the value of our indigenous ministries. I pray that their deep experience of Christ, culture and resilience in the face of adversity serves to strengthen our faith across all of our church.’
Established in the 1870s, FRM supports 25 Aboriginal pastors, and holds regular courses for pastors, trainees and other church leaders, many of whom travel thousands of kilometres to attend.
Tim Stollznow is chair of the Finke River Mission Board.