In recent times I have been pondering on the ambitious vision of the Lutheran Dresden Missionary Society back in 1838 to sponsor four young missionaries to live and work amongst Aboriginal people on the Adelaide Plains and, two years later, at Encounter Bay and on the Eyre Peninsula.
The first Australian people of the Kaurna, Ramindjeri/Ngarrindjeri and Barngarla communities trusted these missionaries and taught them their languages. The missionaries in turn with the support of the parents, taught the Aboriginal children in their own respective languages. The siting of the first school established in 1839 was at Pirltawardli, on the banks of Karrawirra Parri (River Torrens) near the present-day Red Ochre Restaurant.
The missionaries recorded these languages, producing three dictionaries in the hope that the relationship and understanding between the Aboriginal people and White colonist would be enhanced. Sadly though, the relationships deteriorated to the point that by 1853 the missionaries discontinued their work due to lack of financial support and the dispersal of the Aboriginal people with whom they interacted. As the measure of the success of their work and interaction with the Aboriginal people was baptism or conversion of the Aboriginal people, they were deemed a failure because not one was baptised during this time.
Fast forward through to the late 1980’s to today, the Aboriginal people in South Australia have been able to use these dictionaries to reclaim their languages and thereby their culture and identity. This continues to be an amazing gift. As Christine Lockwood concludes ‘The Dresden Missionaries saw their goal as bringing the gift of God’s love to the Indigenous inhabitants of Australia’*.
So, this has got me thinking, how do we measure success today in terms of the mission of our Lutheran learning communities?
To do this, we need to first determine or understand what we value. In doing this we can then consider how we measure what we value?
If we value building strong trusting, respectful and reciprocal relationships with students, staff and families, emanating out of the love that Jesus has modelled to us, what does community look, feel and sound like? What are the signs of your community being a grace place?
We read in 1 John 4:7-10 ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.’
Grace prays for people, loves people, cares, is compassionate, encourages and admonishes. Grace does not recognize inconvenience.
In the same way God has forgiven us, He has called and commanded that we forgive others. We cannot show grace if we refuse to humble ourselves. In humility then we can serve others.
Maybe, just as the Dresden Missionaries saw their goal as bringing the gift of God’s love to the Indigenous inhabitants of Australia, we can see the mission and ministry of our Lutheran learning communities to bring the gift of God’s love by being places of grace.
At this time as you experience challenges within your respective communities including those associated with COVID-19 may God’s love, grace and peace sustain and uphold you.