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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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),
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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