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Walk Alongside Young Indigenous Leaders

Tuesday, 5 March 2024

As a teenager, Lonny had no sense of direction. He sought answers through drugs, alcohol, and relationships. “Being a kid, I didn’t know where I’d go in the world.” When Lonny’s aunty invited him to church, he met Uncle Don Hayward. Uncle Don is an Aboriginal Elder who guided Lonny and helped him find a greater purpose in life.

Lonny, a Wirangu and Wongi man, came to faith in 2015. He says, “Uncle Don has been with me the whole journey.” It has been a "consistent and encouraging" mentoring friendship ever since.

Uncle Don has walked alongside Lonny.

There have been many significant mentoring relationships within the Churches of Christ movement. Within an Indigenous context, Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls (1906-1988) walked alongside Pastor Sonny Graham. From 1958 to 1961, Sonny was the first Indigenous student at Glen Iris Bible College, Victoria. It was here, during his studies, that Sir Douglas sowed seeds into Sonny's life.

Both are well known for their work advancing Indigenous rights, cultural preservation, and reconciliation in Australia. As well as shepherding congregations and providing spiritual leadership. Their stories provide valuable insight into Indigenous intergenerational support and collaboration. A testimony to seeds sown and nurtured, now giving hope for the next generation.

The seeds sown and nurtured by Uncle Don in Lonny’s life have continued to grow. Lonny is now the associate pastor at the Melbourne Indigenous Church Fellowship. He is also a young leader supported through the Indigenous Ministries Australia (IMA) Pathways program.

IMA Pathways provides support for young Indigenous leaders' development. IMA is a program of Global Mission Partners.

Lonny completed his initial studies at Ridley Bible College, Victoria, in 2022. IMA Pathways helped support Lonny by providing access to resources and travel. The Pathways program also sponsored Uncle Don Hayward to attend Lonny’s graduation.

Lonny said that having his mentor attend the graduation was, “Wow! A major milestone in my life." With support from his elders and IMA, he said, “Everyone has been there for me.” 

Lonny is continuing his studies, this time attaining a bachelor's degree. Again, he is studying at Ridley College. Lonny is the only Aboriginal student enrolled. Lonny can see the need for more Indigenous people to respond to God's calling into ministry.

Lonny believes investing in young Aboriginal leaders is crucial to developing Indigenous communities. “A lot of Aboriginal Elders and pastors are elderly now. We need young fellas to stand up. Young fellas can stand up in sports, work and trades… so who is standing up for faith?” he shared.

Lonny knows the challenges involved in pursuing ministry and training. This includes the fear of leaving a community. Lonny explained, “Aboriginal people are connected to their land and culture. There is always the fear that if they go somewhere, they won’t come back.” Lonny left his home in Adelaide, South Australia, to study in Melbourne, Victoria. It was daunting, but he took a leap of faith and found the confidence to take more steps. (He does get to go home during the holidays!)

Connection to Indigenous Elders has helped Lonny continue his studies despite being the only Aboriginal student in his course. Lonny has had solid input from his Elders but also says he needs his peers. Other young leaders in ministry walking alongside him is essential. Lonny says, “Seeing others passionate, willing, and faithful...even if it is the slightest thing," is encouraging to him.

Global Mission Partners seeks to support more young Indigenous people like Lonny. Through initiatives like IMA Pathways and your support, it is possible! 

You can help nurture the seeds planted in young people this Easter and invest in the future of Indigenous leadership. You are walking alongside our Indigenous partners when you support the Walk for Hope Easter Appeal. 

Give today and help provide support to people like Lonny. You can help them to pursue their God-given purpose.

Give now

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