Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 53 - July-August 2013 > A Bit of Compassion (by John Morris)

A Bit of Compassion

by John Morris

David Livingstone was born in the industrial town of Blantyre on the banks of the Clyde River in Scotland. He gained inspiration from his father and preachers and associates within the Church of Scotland and after with the local congregational church. After reading Karl Gutzlaff's "Appeal to the Churches of Britain and America on behalf of China" Livingstone took the first steps in the study of medicine. Hoping to go the China he re-directed is thinking to Africa following the outbreak of the first Opium WAR in 1839 and a meeting with the LMS missionary Robert Moffat.

Livingstone traveled extensively in Africa preaching a Christian message without forcing on unwilling ears, moving with minimal support staff and equipment allaying the fears of indigenous peoples who were greatly affected by the slave trade. Abolition of the slave trade drove Livingstone to explore and try and open up the country for commerce and civilization which would provide a financial alternative to the slave trade.

In his travels he was the first European to see "the smoke that thunders" - Victoria Falls, was one of the first to make the transcontinental crossing of Africa, searched for the source of the Nile River (which he did not achieve but which did observe numerous geological features for Western science including Lakes Ngami, Malawi, and Bangweulu and filled in details' of Lakes and rivers). Blanks on the maps of the day were significantly reduced in size.

He left his heart in Africa under a Mvula tree. His loyal attendants carried his body and journal over 1,000 miles to the coast. His body was returned to Britain and was finally  interred at Westminster Abbey.

John Flynn is a local with a similar sense of interest in the welfare of Australians in the outback. Flynn was born in Moliagul, Victoria in 1880. Unable to finance university studies he took a position as pupil-teacher until 1903 when he began studies in theology which spanned 4 years. He then volunteered for appointment to the Smith of Dunesk Mission in the north Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

Flynn roamed the inland for near on 20 years as head of the Presbyterian General Assembly's Australian Inland Mission. He gained notoriety as the "Camel-man" with a great knowledge of the sandy wastes , and the mainly men who 'occupied' the territories. He also had major concern for the wives of those men. His tracks took him to the back of Lake Eyre, Oodnadatta, Pine Creek, Cloncurry, & Broome. He was equally at home in the board room of the capital cities on the coastal fringe where he must needs to go to promote his concepts of development of services medical and social to help reduce if not eliminate the loneliness and risk of the outback. His tracks were made by the different transport "vehicles' he used over time, donkeys, camels and finally the automobile.

But his vision was wider and higher leading to the development of the AIM Aerial Medical Service at Cloncurry in 1928 and in conjunction with Alfred Treager, the pedal radio in 1929. Nursing hostels and nursing sisters were established at key points,, Innaminka, Birdsville, Victoria River Downs, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing,  and with other locations staffed by doctors in the larger communities forming a protective circle around the wastes of the inland deserts.

John Flynn fought for the use of the plane to reduce the risk further leading to the flying doctor concept becoming reality on May 17, 1928 with the first callout of the Victory leased from Qantas with Doctor St Vincent Welch on duty. The service transmorphed into the Royal Flying Doctor Service of today.

Flynn died in 1951 and his ashes are interred at the foot of Mt Gillen out of Alice Springs. He is truly, Flynn of the Inland.

Len Barnard began a lifelong service for the church and the Sanitarium Health Food Co in 1933. From 1933 to 1942 he spent 7 years working for the SHF apart from 2 years at what was called the NZ Missionary College. 1942 to 1946 saw him serve as a medic in the AIF in New Guinea, where he developed an intense interest in the place and the people.1949 saw him appointed as the superintendent of the Mt Hagen Hansenide Hospital (Leprosy treatment hospital). Len and Mavis moved from there in 1955 to the Eastern Highlands where he became the director of the church programme for Omarura and Homu districts, and to Laigam district from 1962 to 1972. On the way he picked up a pilot's qualification and began using the air to cover week long expeditions in sometimes minutes or hours. The first plane was a Cessna 180 christened the "Andrew Stewart" in memory of another pioneer missionary to the South Pacific.

Len had a vision of access to remote areas by air and was instrumental in setting up the work of aerial evangelism in this end of the world. On returning from service in New Guinea Len initiated the establishment of the Adventist Aviation Association which provided services to the outlying areas of New South Wales.

The benefits of air access in the PNG is well illustrated by the 6 days required to walk the 40kmk from the village of Kapi on the Karimui Plateau at the foot of Mount Aue to Kundiawa, the capital of the Chimbu Province which is the nearest town with decent medical facilities. The area was renown for its cannibalism to the 1960's with resultant leprosy and yaws in addition to boils, axe wounds and tropical diseases trying the skills of Barnard and other support staff. On Barnard's first visit to the area with stops required at every village on the way to treat medical problems it took 40 days. The aircraft can make the trip these days in around 30 minutes.

There is still a need within Australia to reach out to the remote areas with people needing support, comfort and empathy. Although we have ready access to most of the country with comparative ease, planes from single engine to multi engine passenger jets,

4WDs, buses and trucks , the need is to meet people. The internet can only go so far. The concept of neighbourliness was expounded by Jesus in many ways. Perhaps the most notable is in the story known colloquially as "The Good Samaritan". A traveler between Jerusalem and Jericho is robbed, beaten and left for dead. He is saved by the actions of a Samaritan traveler, persona non grata to the Jews. The key element in this story is that the Samaritan had compassion for the injured one who had a need not for anything that he might gain from the episode. Whereas the clergy of the day had feelings for themselves only. (Luke 10:33) Elsewhere the admonition was given to look after even your enemies livestock should you come across an animal in distress. Too often we are on the freeway and we think that there is no room to stop. Compassion becomes a verbal comment about that poor dear on the side of the road and we pass on.

Do not imagine that you cannot be a David Livingstone, or a John Flynn, or a Len Barnard. There may be a need right next door that God will call you to do something about.

This article is Copyright © 2013 by John L Morris.  Used by permission.

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 53 - July-August 2013 > A Bit of Compassion (by John Morris)