God is good and he keeps surprising us! That is the feeling among Lutherans in Geelong as they see something new that God is unfolding in their mission and outreach there. Before December, the possibility of a church plant among Tamil immigrants in Victoria’s second-largest city was not on anyone’s strategic plan. Anyone except the Holy Spirit, that is!
On Saturday 26 February, a Tamil Christian church service was held at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Geelong. Joyce Mailvaganam, a Tamil guest from London, shared a message, and Pastor Vino from a Melbourne Tamil church led the praise and worship service. Around 95 people attended the service, including about 30 to 40 from the Geelong Tamil community.
The Tamil community is now being invited to attend either Sunday morning worship or a fortnightly Tamil fellowship and prayer group held in the afternoon at Our Redeemer.
Michelle Filipovic, who has worked for a number of years with asylum seekers and new immigrants in Geelong, is employed part-time in a united approach to ministry by four Lutheran congregations in Geelong.
She says that historically, St Paul’s Lutheran Church Grovedale has been serving asylum seekers, refugees and migrants by means of practical, relational and spiritual support. The congregation was first called to support asylum seekers when some Tamil men arrived for worship one Sunday in 2013.
Now, together with the Lutheran churches in Geelong, St Paul’s Kindergarten and Geelong Lutheran College, the Grovedale congregation supports around 23 households. Nationalities supported include Iranians, Afghans, Haitians and Kurds, with the Tamil community being the largest group the community walks with.
‘The ministry to our families is practical, relational and pastoral’, Michelle says. ‘We have walked closely with our families, assisting them as needs arise, doing life alongside them while offering prayer, reading scripture, and sharing God’s love and the gospel in very gentle and loving but bold ways.’
The ministry is bathed in prayer, and friendships are created through visiting people in their homes. Practical support is offered via donating and distributing non-perishable food, providing transport to appointments, delivering large items, advocating and making referrals for support, teaching in-home English lessons, and resourcing community opportunities for volunteering and employment.
The ministry works closely with community organisations in Geelong, such as Diversitat Asylum Seeker Program, Barwon Health, 3216 Connect charity group, Geelong Mums, and the Baptist and Uniting churches.
LCA New and Renewing Churches is working with Michelle and the Lutheran congregations in Geelong to seek funding, form a core team, support Tamil Christians in leadership and discipleship, and connect with those who are not yet Christian through evangelism, service, witness, and reading the Bible together.
We hope and pray that this gathering of people is the birthing of a Tamil church plant in Geelong.
Michelle says that she is motivated by the words of John 6:40: ‘For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’.
‘I love this verse because of the evangelistic heart of God’, she says. ‘God’s will is that everyone would know Jesus and have eternal life. This is my heart for those who do not know Jesus as their Saviour, especially in my role with asylum seekers and refugees. It is good news because it simply says that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved.
‘It also reminds me of the petition in the Lord’s prayer: “Your will be done”. His will is “that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life”. It is the Great Commission, the sharing of the gospel to all nations.’
We give God alone the glory for the ways in which he has and is working around us, bringing his kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. As Jesus leads us to people coming to know him as their Lord and Saviour, we are quietly expecting to see the unfolding of a new church.
Pastor Nathan Hedt is the manager of the LCA New and Renewing Churches Department.
- That visa applications are approved
- For provisions for bridging-visa families who receive no Centrelink payments or healthcare care
- For open hearts for families who don’t know Jesus yet, so that as we serve and minister to them, they would hear and receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour