Our Australian Tour (10)

In the previous installment of our report (February 15 issue) we told or our departure from Melbourne for Sydney on Saturday morning, July 12.

We arrived at the Sydney airport late Saturday morning, where we were met by the Rev. John Stafford, pastor of the little independent Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ryde, a suburb of Sydney. The congregation there is small, but not lacking in devotion and enthusiasm. Rev. Stafford is not a full time minister, but teaches school during the week. Mrs. Stafford is in charge of all the music instruction in the school system of Sydney. We all had lunch Saturday noon at the Stafford home, and spent the afternoon in conversation there, becoming better acquainted with one another and discussing plans for our stay in the Sydney area. Although we had been forewarned by the Rev. Stafford about the horrible weather which we should expect in Sydney at that time of the year, the fact of the matter is that during our stay there we had beautifully sunny days and the warmest temperatures we had encountered thus far on our trip. In fact, one afternoon I was almost tempted to take a swim. The air temperature was in the upper 60’s; and if it had not been for the chill breeze, I would have taken a dip in the waters of the Tasman Sea, which the thermometer showed to be around 60 degrees. At any rate, during the day we no longer needed our topcoats. While we were at Sydney, Rev. Hank? made his home with the Staffords; Mrs. Hoeksema and I stayed at the home of Miss Marjorie Martin, a retired college lecturer in Botany. Miss Martin’s home is on a hill overlooking the ocean, and only a busy highway separated us from the beautiful, sandy beach. Rev. Stafford and his congregation did everything possible to make our stay enjoyable, and overwhelmed us with their kindness, generosity, and hospitality. We shall not soon forget our stay at Sydney. 

Due to the cancellation of some meetings with representatives of the Presbyterian Reformed Churches, our schedule in the Sydney area originally had some openings in it. But while it was not quite as busy as our previous schedule had been, nevertheless it was sufficiently full. We did, however, have one day open for a sightseeing tour. On Saturday evening I lectured at the meeting place of Rev. Stafford’s congregation, the Willoughby Congregational Church. “There. was a small, but attentive audience of 19 present to hear my lecture on “The Reformed Faith in Crisis.” On Sunday, July 13, we had to wait until the afternoon for our first church service, due to the fact that the meeting place is not available in the morning. At that afternoon service Rev. Hanko preached, taking as his text Psalm 91:1, 2. There were 25 present, including some visitors from the Free Presbyterian Church and from one of the local Reformed churches. 

After’ supper (“tea”) at the Staffords, I had another of the many new experiences which characterized our tour. For the first time in my career I preached in a Baptist Church. This was the Macquairie Reformed Baptist Church. If you are wondering how it was possible that we could preach in all these different kinds of churches with which we had no official ecclesiastical relation, let me explain that before we accepted any of these invitations to preach, we made it plain that we were not to be restricted in our preaching, but were to be accepted as we were and allowed to speak freely. The service at this church was very different. In Rev. Stafford’s congregation they observe purity of worship, which involves singing of Psalms without instrumental accompaniment. As you might expect, there was very spirited singing of hymns at this Reformed Baptist Church. I preached to a very attentive and receptive congregation of between 50 and 60 on Isaiah 45:22-25. We had a very hearty reception from the people of the congregation, and we lingered a good while for conversation after the service. 

Monday, July 14, was a more leisurely day. In the afternoon Rev. Hanko and I visited an FM broadcasting station which is not yet in operation, but which is engaged in considerable recording and distributing of various religious programs which are aired on other’ radio stations. We had originally been scheduled for an interview; but due to the sickness of the interviewer, our interview had to be cancelled. We did, however, make some inquiries concerning radio broadcasting in Australia. We were rather surprised to learn that FM broadcasting is only about to begin in that country, and that the station which we visited was waiting to obtain one of the first licenses to be granted. In that light, we concluded that at present it would certainly not be very fruitful even to attempt an FM broadcast. 

On Monday evening, July 14, there was an advertised open house, or cottage meeting, at the home of Rev. and Mrs. Stafford. At this meeting there were some 15 people present, mostly from Mr. Stafford’s congregation. I must make mention of the fact that one who was present at all of our :meetings in the Sydney area and who was a very interested participant was Mr. Alec Neil, a member of the Free Church, but vitally interested in the Reformed faith. We enjoyed our fellowship with him, also on our later train-trip to Wauchope. 

You will notice that in the Sydney area, a large metropolitan area, our meetings were very small, even as in many other places which we visited. This was not due, however, to a lack of extensive publicity and advertising. Our readers must remember—in order to keep a balanced picture of our tour—that while we made many wonderful contacts with like-minded people of God who love the Reformed faith, the ecclesiastical situation in countries like New Zealand and Australia is very much similar to the situation in our own country. The level of spiritual life is low. The apostate churches are large. There are, of course, as also in this country, various evangelical, or fundamentalist, groups which are thoroughly Arminian and dispensationalist. But the remnant which desires to adhere to the pure truth of our Reformed faith is very small. I mention this, as I say, so that you may have an accurate picture of what we encountered on our tour. We certainly encountered great things, but we did not find big things. If we had been expecting big things, we certainly would have been disappointed. 

Tuesday, July 15, was a day of relaxation. It had been set aside by our hosts in Sydney for the purpose of sight-seeing. Mr. John Steele and Miss Martin took us on a tour of downtown Sydney, where the world-famous Opera House, among other places, was visited by us. Then we went to the observation deck of one of Sydney’s skyscrapers, in order to get a bird’s-eye view of the city and of Sydney’s large, busy harbor area. Sydney, by the way, has one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world. We had our noon lunch aboard a sight-seeing launch which took us for a long tour of the Sydney harbor area. After this enjoyable day, we spent the evening with the Stafford family, but retired early, in order to be ready for the next day’s early morning train-trip to the little village of Wauchope, some 250 miles north of Sydney. 

We made a party of our trip to Wauchope on Wednesday, July 16. Accompanying us on the trip north were Rev. Stafford, Mr. John Steele, Mr. Alec Neil, and Mr. Neil’s elderly mother. Our purpose was to visit Rev. and Mrs. Alan Tripovich and to lecture at the Free Presbyterian Church in that village. This was our only contact with the Free Church. Originally, Wauchope had not been on our schedule; but when we found that we had an extra day in the schedule, due to the cancellation of our meetings with the Presbyterian Reformed Church, the Rev. Stafford (who coordinated this part of our tour) made efforts to arrange for other meetings. If I remember correctly, Rev. Tripovich and Rev. Stafford became reacquainted with one another through a mutual acquaintance who was a former member of Rev. Stafford’s church. At any rate, through correspondence the Rev. Stafford learned that Pastor Tripovich was in agreement with our position concerning God’s attitude toward the reprobate and concerning the free offer, and that Mr. Tripovich was interested in having us visit Wauchope. 

Hence, after almost missing the train early in the morning, we found ourselves enjoying both the fellowship of our Australian traveling companions and the opportunity to view the Australian countryside as we traveled north. When one travels by air, of course, he gets little opportunity to see a country; it was a welcome change, therefore, when we could take this rather leisurely trip by rail which brought us to Wauchope and to another new experience about midafternoon of that day. 

Our brief stay with Rev. and Mrs. Tripovich was very enjoyable. Our hosts showed themselves to be intensely interested in the Reformed truth, and our time was busily occupied with conversation concerning the truth and the things of the church—so busily, in fact, that the time almost got away from us, and we had to go right from our evening meal to the church’s Fellowship Hall, where I lectured on “God’s Sovereign Love of the World” to an attentive audience of about 50. After the lecture there was much informal discussion while refreshments were served. As soon as we arose the next morning, our conversations began again, and they continued until we boarded our plane at nearby Port McQuarie. We only regretted that our visit had to be a brief one. Meanwhile, our travel companions from Sydney had returned on the night train, while we were scheduled to travel northward to Brisbane. 

That was another new experience. It was necessary to reach Brisbane on Thursday, July 17 for our scheduled meeting there. Hence, our hosts had arranged an unusual plane flight for us. We made use of the services of the North Coast Airline, a small commuter line. We flew in a twin-engine, propeller-driven, eight-seater plane—quite different from the large airliners in which we had been flying. There were a few intermediate stops before Brisbane, and some of these were at little airports with unpaved runways. However, this method of travel enabled us to get a beautiful bird’s-eye view of the countryside, and especially of the coastal area all the way north to Brisbane. 

Brisbane, a large metropolitan area, is one of the centers of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. At present this congregation has no pastor, but the Rev. Philip Burley had made the long trip from Rockhampton, to the north, to be present at our meeting in Brisbane. Here, too, we made the acquaintance of one of the students for the ministry of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Mr. Chris Colebom. Rev. Hanko had as his hosts the Peter Torlach family; and during our stay in Brisbane, Rev. Hanko had extensive opportunity to, visit with Mr. Colebum, who was very eager to learn all that he could about our churches during the half day of our stay at Brisbane. Mrs. Hoeksema and I had as our hostess Mrs. Ann Walker, a young widow lady with four children. During the late afternoon Rev. Burley took us on a brief sight-seeing tour of Brisbane which (if there are any GI’s who were stationed at Brisbane during WW II and who might remember this) included the site of the former American military installations there. In fact, Rev. Burley might have been among the youngsters who begged chewing gum from you at that time! This sight-seeing tour also gave us the opportunity to become better acquainted with Pastor Burley, as well as to become briefed on plans for the evening meeting. That meeting was in downtown Brisbane at the Temperance Hall. By request, I spoke on the same subject as in Launceston to a very attentive audience of about 60. After the lecture there was a question hour, and thereafter we had more than an hour of informal discussion over refreshments. This was the last meeting of our Australian tour, and also our last contact with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. We had been invited to visit Rockhampton also; however, the invitation came too late for us to fit Rockhampton into our schedule, to our deep regret. We shall not soon forget the warm reception which we received from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and especially from the people of the Brisbane congregation and from Pastor Burley. 

On Friday morning, July 18, we left Brisbane for Sydney, arriving in late morning. We spent the rest of that day attending to various details in preparation for our departure from Australia and in packing and shipping home some of our winter clothing, which we would not need for the remainder of our trip. We had our evening meal with Rev. and Mrs. Stafford, and visited until late at night at their home; and after an early breakfast, we departed from Sydney for Jakarta, Indonesia by Air Garuda at 9:45 A.M. on Saturday, July 19. 

Thus ended our all too brief stay in Australia.