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12 April 2024

Cross-shaped leaders at Nungalinya


CMS missionaries Ian and Jenny Wood serve with Nungalinya College in Darwin, where they teach ministry and theology. Here, Ian shares how God is raising up servant-hearted leaders through the college:

For 50 years, Nungalinya College has equipped Indigenous men and women for leadership roles in churches and communities. CMS has a long and deep history with the College, which goes back prior to its formation. In the mid-1960’s, CMS and the Methodist Overseas Mission discussed joining together to set up theological education in the Northern Territory. Nungalinya College was established in 1973, with former CMS missionary Keith Cole serving as the principal. Many CMS missionaries have since followed, bringing their teaching experience to the College after serving in remote communities. Jenny and I currently serve here as teachers, alongside James, Mandy, Marlene and Hannah, who are also supported by CMS.

Nungalinya runs courses on foundational literacy and numeracy, art and faith, Bible translation, chaplaincy, faith and family wellbeing, and ministry and theology. All courses use the Bible and aim to help believers grow in Christian living. The Certificate 3 and 4 in Christian Theology and Ministry courses particularly aim to help Christians lead their churches and communities well.

 

Being cross-shaped

Leadership in Indigenous communities looks vastly different to leadership in mainstream Australia. It is underpinned by discussion, consensus, deep listening, family connectedness, knowledge and experience, language, obligation and status.

The contexts in which Indigenous Christians lead are also different to mainstream Australia. In remote communities, the lines between congregation, family, and community are often blurred. What makes for a church meeting, and who comes, as well as senses of time, family duties and ritual obligations can create challenges for Christian leaders. Financial stress in the community adds an extra layer of complexity.

Before each graduation, we invite students to choose a Bible reading for the ceremony. The most common request is for Mark 10:45, where Jesus proclaims, “The Son of Man did not come to be a slave master, but a slave who will give his life to rescue many people.”(CEV) This passage encapsulates the type of leaders that students at Nungalinya desire to be: cross-shaped servant leaders. We spend a lot of time reading the Bible together and thinking about how it applies to our lives and ministries. Our students are prayerful and intentional in working out how to be leaders in their own contexts.

 

Servant leaders in action

God is using many of our students in powerful ways in their communities. The following three students are studying a Certificate 4 in Theology and Ministry, while also serving as leaders in various ministries:

Bundurr Rami serves as an ordained minister in the Numbulwar church in Arnhem Land, where he works alongside CMS missionaries Josh and Steph Mackenzie. Bundurr is eager to understand the Bible well, and for his community to have opportunities to learn from the
Bible too.

Darryn Farrell is an ordained minister in the church at Minyerri in Arnhem Land. In 2022, Darryn was the driving force behind a Bible camp at Minyerri, which gathered people from communities across the Roper Valley for three days of Bible study.

Alanga Nganbe serves in the church and the community in Wadeye. She works alongside CMS Short-Term Worker Hannah Harper in the translation course at Nungalinya, and serves on the College board.

In addition, James Woods (who is a Co-Mission Partner with CMS) has been teaching at Nungalinya since he finished his Certificate 4 in 2017. Last year, he was ordained in Urapunga. James is eager to work alongside Bundurr, Darryn, and other leaders in serving their communities.

God is faithfully raising up many Indigenous leaders for gospel ministry across Australia. Please pray that he would help students at Nungalinya College to understand his gospel more deeply, and see how it transforms life and leadership.

 

 

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You can support the ministry of Ian and Jenny and other CMS missionaries in the Northern Territory by prayer and regular financial giving. Go to give.cms.org.au to be involved with God’s work in raising up Indigenous leaders for gospel ministry.