The EPC of Australia—Revisited (3)

After reluctant farewells at the Launceston airport, we began to make our way .northward to mainland Australia, and eventually to Brisbane, in the southern part of the large state of Queensland. There were two attractions to the north: the one was the warmer weather (sounds strange to us of the northern hemisphere, doesn’t it, that warmer weather is to the north), and the other was renewal of acquaintances with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Brisbane and their young pastor, Rev. Chris Coleborn. Pastor Coleborn had warmly welcomed us to Brisbane long before we left Grand Rapids, and had promised to show us the sights in the Brisbane area and to take us to the Australian “midwest.” 

Before we reached Brisbane, however, there were two other scheduled visits. The first was an extremely brief one in Melbourne. We had a five-minute running visit with Rev. and Mrs. Ian Morgan, whom we had also met five years ago. Mr. Morgan had a piece of literature pertinent to the history of the E.P.C., and he was gracious enough to come the long distance from his home to the Melbourne airport to deliver it. A change in flight schedules shortened our stopover in Melbourne, however, with the result that we had about enough time to exchange warm greetings and then to say good-bye again. From Melbourne we went some 500 miles north to Sydney. Miss Marjorie Martin, whom many of our people know through her extended visit in the U.S., met us at the Sydney airport, took us to our motel, and later in the evening entertained us for dinner at her little apartment not far from downtown Sydney. That evening we also met Mr. John Steel, whom some of you know through his visit to the States, and his fiancée, Miss Robin Taylor, and Rev. and Mrs. John Stafford. Our stay in Sydney was for a couple days, mostly filled with sight-seeing to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and to downtown Sydney and its beautiful harbor. Evenings were spent visiting. We had the unusual experience of visiting a Protestant Reformed family, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Jabaay (Faith Church), thousands of miles from home. And we spent an evening at the home of Rev. and Mrs. Stafford; regrettably Mr. Stafford was sick that evening, so we did not have much chance to chat with him. But it was good to meet again with these folk of the (independent) Reformed. Presbyterian Church in that area. 

But on Thursday it was on to Brisbane, another 500 miles north. 

There we were met at the airport by Pastor Coleborn in his little Subaru—just big enough for three passengers and their luggage, if you put one large bag up on top. Our first stop was at the manse, where we met the pastor’s wife, Christine, and their toddler son, Peter, and had afternoon coffee and evening tea (dinner), and began the long process of catching up on events of mutual interest and of our seemingly endless theological discussions. 

But I must back track a bit .in order to explain. Five years ago Rev. Hanko and I paid only a very brief visit to Brisbane, arriving late one afternoon and leaving early the next morning. We spent a long evening with the congregation at that time, delivered a lecture, conducted a question hour, and enjoyed an informal social hour afterwards. At that time Rev. Hanko became rather well acquainted with (then) Student Coleborn. In fact, they chatted so much that Rev. Hanko was almost late for our plane in the morning. But Mrs. Hoeksema and I did not really have much opportunity to become acquainted; that came later by correspondence. In the interim, Student Coleborn became Pastor Coleborn, shepherd of the Brisbane E.P.C. He also married; and the pastor and his wife have one young son and another child soon to be born, the Lord willing. So when we arrived at the manse, there was much getting acquainted to be done, as well as many subjects of conversation on which to catch up.

Pastor Coleborn is, I would say, ail pastor. He is a sincere and godly young man with a deep interest in the things of God’s Word and of the Reformed faith. Invariably when we were together, our conversation turned to things theological. He claimed to have saved up innumerable questions and subjects for discussion during the five, years between visits; and when we parted at the airport, he claimed that the list of questions had not yet been exhausted. When he took us sight-seeing in the Brisbane area, we would be busily engaged in a discussion of some topic, and he would say, “I’ll have to put a comma there for a moment, and call the ladies’ attention to this or that point of interest.” Thereupon we would resume the conversation. 

Brisbane is a large, modern, busy metropolis. It is situated on the coast, has a large harbor; .and in the immediate Brisbane area is a busy resort area called the Gold Coast, which reminds one much of such American resort areas as are found, for example, along the Florida coast. 

The small Brisbane congregation is rather widely spread throughout the Brisbane metropolitan area. They do not have their own church property, but meet in a rather centrally located building near downtown Brisbane. Appropriately enough, the building is called the “House of Bread,” though the name has nothing to do with the Bread of Life. On our Sunday in Brisbane, I was privileged to lead their Adult Bible Class and to preach on Isaiah 59:21 in the morning service, and onPhilippians 3:20 in the evening service. Again, I preached as I would at home; and I found a very attentive and receptive congregation. We enjoyed meeting the people of the congregation and visiting .with several of them during the day, both at the pastor’s home and at the home of our gracious hostess, Mrs. Ann Walker; with whom we had stayed also five years ago. 

Again, my general impression of the congregation at Brisbane is that they are genuinely interested in the Reformed faith. They have also grown in their understanding and appreciation of the truth of God’s covenant. And in Brisbane, as in Launceston, there is a lively interest developing in Christian education. 

On Monday morning we left the Brisbane airport for five days of relaxing at an ocean resort .a few hundred miles north, at Hayman Island in the Great Barrier Reef area. But Pastor Rodman—I wrote earlier that as moderator he was visiting the various churches at this time—was scheduled to arrive at Brisbane shortly before our departure. We were eagerly looking for one another, therefore, in the Brisbane airport. What a joyful reunion we had in the airport! And how we talked for twenty minutes! 

We were scheduled to return to Brisbane on Friday afternoon and to travel to a place called Chinchilla over Sunday. But about that next time.