Story Bridge by night. It’s one of 15 bridges spanning the Brisbane River as it snakes its way through the city.

Brisbane, one of our favorite Australian cities, never disappoints. Named for the serpentine river that runs through it—which was named for Sir Thomas Brisbane, governor of New South Wales in the early 19th century–the metropolitan area of Queensland’s capital has a burgeoning population of 2.3 million—yet somehow doesn’t seem crowded, probably because the river provides so many vista points and unobstructed skies.

The Hat takes in the view of St John’s Cathedral, just two blocks from our apartment, one block from Ann Street Church of Christ.

 We didn’t really come here to see the city, though. We had other goals. One was to see Globalscope missionaries (and former Emmanuel Christian Seminary students) Erik Schlipf and his wife Emily Abernathy who are here to establish a campus ministry with University of Queensland students.

Eric Schilpf & Emily Abernathy

Their outreach will also include Queensland University of Technology (QUT for short) students, as well as others.

We were their first visitors. Natives of Georgia, Eric and Emily have just been here a few weeks, but we can already tell they are going to lead a dynamic ministry. They know what they are doing. In addition to their winning personalities they have the benefit of their own experience with the campus ministry of Georgia Tech, one of the most successful in the States. In addition—and you knew I’d say this—they received a good educational preparation at Emmanuel, although Emily skillfully avoided my classes for her entire time there!

What impressed us most was more personal: their initiative and alertness to opportunities, their administrative and networking skills, and their commitment. They have already made themselves an integral part of the Ann Street Church of Christ, a small but exciting multi-cultural congregation in the heart of the city. Eric and Emily selected Brisbane above other Australian cities because it offers the greatest potential for an effective campus outreach.

Brisbane city center Banyan tree

Joy and I spent an evening with the church. It was a happy surprise to discover that the minister, Jason Brown, is the son of Jamaican pastor Delroy Brown, whom I met on a CMF recruiting visit to San Jose Bible College when he was a student there in the 1960s. I tried to encourage him to become a CMF missionary. He turned me down but went on to a long and fruitful ministry, even without my advice! He must be very proud of Jason, who has brought new life to a church that was almost dead four years ago.

Ann Street Church of Christ, Brisbane

Another surprise was in store. It was good to get caught up again with Ted Bjorem and to receive a copy of his book on the history of Church of Christ missions among Australian Aborigines. Ted, a long-ago Emmanuel graduate and Oregon native we’ve known for years, rode the train from his home in the Gold Coast. He came for the potluck dinner and the “Oprah” show. That’s how the minister, Jason, introduced the question-and-answer session in which he was the interrogator (Oprah) and I the sole answerer in a free-ranging interview with this foreigner in their midst. As usual, I talked too much. It’s wise not to ask my opinion. I give it.

Kangaroo family taking a nap.

Emily and Erik showed us a good time: evening meal at Riverbar and Kitchen restaurant along the Brisbane riverfront, an all-day excursion that included the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (also a safe place for raptors and other birds, kangaroos, emus, reptiles, and assorted animal natives of Australia),

An Australian Kelpie in a sheep-herding demonstration at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. These intelligent, amazingly swift, beautiful dogs (the other was a Border Collie) put on an incredible show for us.

a tour of the University of Queensland and their apartment quite close to it, then a stroll through the city’s remarkable South Bank Parklands, a city council-developed cultural-educational-recreational site which boasts a manmade beach, a stunning bougainvillea-covered arbor, play areas for the children and many venues for adults.

Long arbor walkway in the South Bank Parklands of Brisbane.

Once again I found myself mentally taking old friends along with us. In 2000 the World Convention of Christian Church was held here. Joy wasn’t with me, so I hung out with Drs. Bob Wetzel and Bruce Shields of Emmanuel. In addition to the convention we spent a memorable evening together attending a Bach concert in town. I can’t tell you what made the evening so unforgettable without incurring the disapproval of these friends. Let’s just say I embarrassed them. They feel more comfortable on a night on the town with respectable people.

Another goal was to reconnect with Orrell and Christine Battersby, who drove to Brisbane from the Gold Coast for our rendezvous.

Oral & Christine

We go back a long way with these good friends, clear back to 1981. Dr. Wetzel was the founding Principal of Springdale College in the Selly Oak suburb of Birmingham, England, and I was a member of the college’s board of trustees then. Orrell and Chris attended the annual meeting of the British Churches of Christ the college hosted. Shortly after Orrell enrolled as a ministerial student. A professional graphics artist, he resigned his job, moved his wife and two little children to the College from the Liverpool area, and prepared himself for ministry, which is what he’s doing now in Oxenford, Queensland as a pastor with the New Life Uniting Church. These young friends are now grandparents, but as enthusiastic, as positive, and as much fun to be with as ever.

Brisbane’s Story Bridge in the rain storm that caught us unawares. Compare with the night-time picture at the top of this post.

Our time together was over far too soon, although we did manage to visit Brisbane’s beautiful botanical garden together and, for the second time in our short stay in Brisbane, caught a thorough soaking in what my iPhone weather app labelled a 50% chance of rain. But—a cloudburst can’t dampen the spirits when good friends are playing together.

Captain Cook’s Cottage in Melbourne, a popular tourist site. It was built in Yorkshire, England by Cook’s parents in 1755, then later moved, brick by numbered brick, to Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens in 1934.

We returned to Melbourne for our final three days together before departing for Chile. We’re sorry to leave the Ohanessians. There’s no way they could have treated the old folks better than they did. It’s an indescribable blessing when your kids rank high among your very best friends.


Red Begonias in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne
Little guys can run the Brisbane River, too. This weathered boat reminds us of fishing in Oregon
Roy & Joy showing the Hat’s other hat.










9 thoughts on “A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT”

  1. I wondered where you were off to next. Chile is beautiful and I know you’re going to love it. I look forward to reading of your adventures there. We spent several days in Valdevia and points south from Santiago back in 1987. Of course, I was only a child but I do have memories of friendly people, volcanoes, lakes and scenery a bit like Oregon–always our baseline. Hugs, R.

  2. Another engaging adventure. And, of course, we are all burning with curiosity to learn the details of your Brisbane embarrassment with Bob and Bruce. We are also currently enjoying “the indescribable blessing when your kids rank high among your very best friends!” Well said, friend.

  3. Dear Roy and Joy,
    We had an absolute ball! Thank you so much for the time you so generously gave to us, we loved every minute.
    Once again, Roy and Joy, your wisdom and insights of ministry didn’t fail us – we came away not only thoroughly encouraged but feeling as if we had had our own personal conference, workshop, seminar, one on one tutorial, mentor session, master class and personal development session all rolled into one day with you!
    We will be hanging out for our next opportunity 🙂
    We loved our stroll down memory lane with you guys and also hearing the latest news on some of our dear friends back in the good old US of A.
    Thank you Roy and Joy, you are our very own National Treasures!
    We will love you forever!
    Chris n Orrell

  4. Absolutely loved seeing you both again!
    We feel like we got a personal master class on mission and ministry.
    You refreshed our souls and refilled our cups.
    We can’t wait another decade until our next meeting, so here’s hoping we see you either
    over Christmas 2017 or early 2018:)

    Thanks Roy and Joy, we love you.

    Orrell and Chris

  5. I refrain from sharing with your readers your Brisbane embarrassment, but the mention of it should make your readers curious. I shall of course tell Jack and Gracie. Thank you for the picture of the Battersbys. What good memories of this beautiful couple!

  6. Love, love, love, reading about your adventures. Thank you for letting us come along through your words and pictures.
    Leaving tomorrow for our own adventure to Kenya.

  7. I do feel as if I’ve been to Australia …thanks!! As I read, I am struck by just how many in the mission field you have planted around the world. You are living the full life …. so meaningful!

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