Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

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Young Disciples of Jesus

by Pr George Porter

The year of 1949 was a year of serious decision making for our parents. We lived under the shadow of the McPherson range in Upper Numinbah.  About the middle of the year they received news that a Church Primary school was being built 47 kms to the south east at a place called, "Ophir Glen", Upper Burringbar. Ophir Glen was 6.5 kms west from Burringbar, which was located on the then Pacific highway, 15 kms from Murwillumbah. Located on the Tweed River, this strategic town was several kms inland from Tweed Heads at the mouth of the river.

Our father had corresponded with a certain Walter Oswald Edwards who owned Ophir Glen.  The property was situated in an extinct volcano the shape of an inverted cone.  The sides of the property rose from a central creek bed at the bottom, up to 400 metres above sea level at the top of the cone ridge. The area consisted of about 50 hectares of cleared mountainous land. The steep slopes were planted with banana plantations.  In season, small crops were also grown in certain spots.  Over the rim past the sub- tropical forest to the east was Crabbe's Creek.  Main Arm and Mullumbimby were situated to the south, and to the west, Uki and Mt Warning. Fourteen families lived on the slopes dotted around the lower reaches of the cone.  They held ninety nine year leases for acreage owned by Walter.   The majority of folk had children and were of the Seventh - day Adventist denomination.  Every Saturday they all drove in their 1920-1930 model cars and utilities to Burringbar. In the late 1950's Holdens, Ford Consuls and Vanguards appeared.

The church stood on the hill overlooking the railway station and the shops of Burringbar.  Town consisted of one street lined with a small deli, garage, general store, butcher, baker and post office which included a primitive telephone exchange.  Off the Pacific Highway and a few hundred metres west of the church was the large depot of the only local transport company, owned by A.J. Mills and Sons.  They operated with two brand new Bedford trucks and several ex-army Ford and Chevy blitz wagons.  They delivered cased bananas to the rail station for transport to Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide and even as far as Perth.  They also collected cream from the numerous dairy farmers in the district and delivered it to the Norco butter factory at Condong, situated on the Tweed River just out of South Murwillumbah.

Our parents had made up their minds that it was imperative that our family should move to Ophir Glen. Both father and mother wanted us to receive a Christian education, to live in a Christian environment and to have regular Church attendance.  Dad would work the Numinbah plantation from the new location.  Decision made, he boarded the bus which travelled daily from the border gate to Murwillumbah and back.  Then he caught the afternoon train to Casino getting off at Upper Burringbar where he was met by Walter who drove him the 3.5 kms to the "Glen".   Walter suggested that we could be accommodated in an old two roomed shack with closed in verandas, both back and front.  It was built on 2 metre stumps between two creeks, about nine hundred metres outside the entrance into the Glen. Dad was excited, it was a mansion compared to our Numinbah residence.  He returned late the next day with the exciting news. It was decided we would relocate in January 1950 in time for the opening of the new school.

Eventually we made the move with the scanty belongings we owned. A table, a few chairs, our bedding and clothes, dad's tools and the model railways we had initially brought from Melbourne.  We and all we owned were bundled onto the old red ex-army Dodge truck owned by the local cream carrier.  Beside Mum and Dad there was my younger brother Robert, born during the WW11. Our siblings Barton and Anne, who were born in Murwillumbah Women's Hospital, sat perched amongst the cargo. They were just tiny tots at the time. Myself, born prior to WW11 was so excited to be part of the entourage bound for a new destiny.   At Murwillumbah we bundled the cargo into the Guard's van attached to the passenger train and set off for Upper Burringbar station.   There we were met by Church members from the Glen and taken to our new "mansion".   Mum was so excited with her new abode and quickly went about settling into daily routine.

The excitement peaked for Robert and myself, when with fourteen other "charter" pupils we experienced the first day of life at our own Christian school. Of the sixteen pupils nine were girls.  The teacher for the first year was Mr Derrick Kent. He taught me Grade 5 subjects.  Mr Wally Dawson followed in 1951 and taught me Grade 6. 

The Church Elders were very special people and we young people learned to love and respect them. The main reason being that they had the welfare of our spiritual lives firmly set in their sights.  They worked tirelessly to encourage us all to choose a life with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  They taught us Scripture and all the important doctrines. They also involved us in the services of the Sabbath day.  Walter gave every one of us a copy of "The Story of Redemption" authored by E.G. White. We all cherished the message of the book and were ever grateful to "W.O.", as he was affectionately called.  Then there was "Pop" Wilkerson, another elder of the Church, who made it his continual business to indoctrinate us all with Holy Scripture. His aim was to have us all baptized by the local Pastor when it was deemed appropriate.

Then there was Milton Edwards, Ron Wyborn and John Wilkerson who sacrificed their time to conduct the Missionary Volunteer Society for the young people. We will ever be grateful for their sincere interest and leadership.  Early in 1950 they organized us all into the Society, teaching us Bible, Scriptural songs and practical things of nature and the heavens.  They eventually mentored us through all levels to the senior years of Comrade and Master Comrade.  Soon after, "Comrade" changed to "Guide", because in some places we were being confused with Communism, as their leaders and adherents used the term "Comrades".  Then eventually it all changed to "Pathfinders as we know it today.

Our mentors were not theorist only.  They taught us to practice our knowledge and kept telling us that we were to be Missionaries in the district and elsewhere in the world. We were taught to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and His imminent return.  Every Sabbath afternoon the above mentioned Youth leaders would bundle us into their cars or utilities and take us out on "missionary" work.  The missionary army comprised the Porter brothers, Williams Brothers, Ryan sisters and later the Ryan and Johnson brothers.

In those days Pastor L.C.Naden broadcast throughout Australia, a radio program he called "Voice of Prophecy".  He was greatly loved and thousands listened to his weekly broadcasts on Bible Prophecy.  He also had the denomination print for him a small paper (A3 folded) which bore the title, "Voice of Prophecy News." On the radio and in the paper his favourite saying was "Have faith dear friend in God"   He had an endless supply of short poems about "Faith in God".  His main theme was the Gospel of salvation and the detailed prophecies concerning Christ's soon Second Coming to this earth.  All across the Northern Rivers thousands gathered around their radios to listen intently to Pastor Naden's Biblical messages. These messages appeared in his the V.O.P.News.  They were messages of hope and comfort to all listeners and readers.

Every Sabbath afternoon our mentors, with us in their vehicles loaded up with hundreds of these Spirit filled papers, set off delivering them house to house.  We commenced in Upper Burringbar, visiting Burringbar, Mooball then north past Mooball Beach and into Pottsville and on to Hastings Point. In those days the roads were rough and stony. Along the coast they were through raw sand. On return we would go via the inland through Cudgera and Reserve Creeks, and eventually over the Burringbar range and back home.  We just loved our missionary work.  At appointed times we would call on people to see if they enjoyed the VOP broadcast and the newspaper.  Many homes were opened for Bible studies and eventually several families were baptized into Jesus Christ.

Our mentors would leave us at homes to take the simple Bible studies such as Angels, Creation, Sin, Forgiveness, and even Daniel 2.  The older folk would take the more involved studies.  We commenced this work when I was 10 years of age and thoroughly enjoyed working with the Lord to share His love for our neighbours. We still thank God for all the men and women who taught and encouraged us to be young missionaries. All of this I believe is what Christ meant when He said, "Love your neighbour."   I am more than thankful for parents and leaders who gave us spiritual instruction and dedicated us to share God's love with our neighbours.  They actioned Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Thanks to God for sensible spiritual leaders.

This article is Copyright © 2014 by George C Porter.  Used by permission.

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