The missionary entrepreneur revisited
About a year ago I wrote a short piece outlining Rich and Julie Lanham’s pioneering ministry in Gilgandra in Western NSW.
Given the high level of interest which that story generated, I decided to contact Rich and get a sense of how the Lord has been prospering this ministry.
Stuart: Rich, last time we spoke you told me that the Koori youth work had grown from 20 meeting in your home to 35 in the local hall.
Rich: Right. Well, our engagement with the Koori kids continues to bear real fruit. We praise God for his blessing and guidance. 58 young people have asked Jesus to be the ruler of their lives. To God be the glory!
Stuart: And this group of girls and boys are reaching out to other members of their family?
Rich: The large number of young people coming to Christ has led to the need for Bible study groups and other disciple-making programs. In addition, these young believers are bringing friends and family to church. As a result the local AIM church is experiencing a significant renewing in its life and focus. This in turn has led to the need for a full-time ministry leader. We’ve welcomed an aboriginal pastor, Max Conlon, and his family to Gilgandra.
Stuart: So you now have a new ministry partner?
Rich: I do. Max is the person I’m working with to grow the indigenous ministry here in ‘Gil’. We have devised a strategy to reach the parents of the young people to whom we are currently ministering. We now have a Sunday morning Family Service and picnic days. The kids who lead our afternoon church are also assisting with morning church. It's going really well. I’m delighted to see how Max - as an aboriginal man, connects so brilliantly with these kids and their families.
Stuart: Tell us about your disciple-making strategy.
Rich: We recently began a small group with a view to growing a team of young indigenous leaders. My prayer was that 8 to 10 kids would front up. We wanted to raise their expectations of how they could impact their community for Christ. We’ve set aside Wednesday evenings and 16 secondary students have consistently made the effort to attend. I want to teach them good biblical habits. They need to be reading the Scriptures, taking notes and asking questions. The first 4 kids to memorise the names of all the books of the Bible will be taken to the movies with Julie!
Stuart: At the invitation of the community, you’ve become the Chaplain at the High School. Not only do you have direct access to students but I understand other ‘doors’ have opened as a result of this appointment.
Rich: Yes. The Lord has enabled me to continue in building relationships with students and staff outside school hours. To this end, I can’t overemphasise the benefits of being given formal permission to give a Christian point of view when it comes to life’s big questions. People expect this of me. I’m also Chair of the primary school P & C association.
Stuart: How has Julie been able to make contact with young women?
Rich: Jules has started a cooking group for some of the girls. In the course of this program the girls said they’d be interested in a study group like the boys. This led to a conversation around the person and work of Jesus. We said that we’d be happy to continue the discussion over the next couple of weeks. One young woman asked if it was possible to ‘ask Jesus into her heart’ there and then. Her friend expressed a similar desire. Jules prayed with them and they gave their lives to Christ.
Stuart: What are your greatest concerns, Rich?
Rich: That the young people who are now following the Lord will continue walking with Him. I am looking for locals (both young and old) who believe they are called by God to continue His work in this place.