The History of Gympie Anabaptist Church’s Establishment
Early 1990s– Brother William McGrath was in contact with a few “seekers” in Australia. After a visit to Australia, he contacted the Montezuma Amish-Mennonite Church in Montezuma, Georgia, and encouraged them to assume the responsibility of staying in touch with the believers he had contacted. At the time, Eli Kauffman was the Bishop of the Church in Montezuma.
January 1994– In response to continuing interest and contacts, Samuel Nisly and his family from the Montezuma Church went to Australia for one month.
February 1994 to February 1998– The Montezuma Church sent ministers to Australia approximately twice a year to encourage Christians here. During this period of time several people were baptized.
March 1998 to July 1999– The Ervin Yoder family from Paris, Tennessee, lived in Victoria during this time. They maintained contact with brethren from other areas and fellowshipped with a local family.
Late 1990s to 2001– With the rise of home schooling in Australia as well as referrals from Christian Light Publications and Rod and Staff Publishers, the number of contacts and inquirers increased rapidly. More people were baptized and/or brought into membership. The Montezuma Church sensed the need for a broader base of support, counsel, and experience for the continuance of the work. This seemed important because of the growing numbers of Christian believers desiring association with Biblical Churches, the distance and costs involved, as well as the complexities and the enormity of the task.
Spring 2001– An interest meeting was held in Hartselle, Alabama. At this meeting the attending Churches were informed of the developments in Australia and encouraged to pray for direction in this work.
May 2001– Several people made a trip to visit the brethren in Australia and made a few new contacts with “seekers”. When they returned the Montezuma Church asked them to serve as a steering committee to form a board that could carry on the work.
September 28, 2001– An organizational meeting was held at Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Hartselle, Alabama. Ministers and lay brethren from Georgia, Alabama, Tennesseeand Kentucky attended this meeting. A board of directors was elected from among the attendees of the meeting. Although a name was not chosen until later, this was the official beginning of the Australian Christian Brotherhood missionary board. The statement of purpose was as follows:
“As God leads and provides we intend:
- to propagate the faith “once delivered to the saints”,
- to minister to needs of believers and unbelievers with “agape”, God’s unconditional love,
- to labour together with God and our Australian brethren to establish Biblical Churches.”
The motto of ACB was 1 Corinthians 3:9 “For we are labourers together with God.” The goal was an autonomous home-grown Churchthat would be built around Australian Christians without a heavy American “footprint.”
2002 to 2003– Several trips were made to Australia, exploring options for where to send a minister, seeking the will of God and the counsel of interested brethren. The ACB also sought the will of the Lord for whom to send. After an exploratory trip to Australia, the Jason Kauffman family consented to move to Australia.
August 2003– The Jason Kauffman family from Cullman, Alabama, moved to Australia and settled near Brisbane in order to serve in a pastoral/organizational role. This location was chosen because of the number of interested families in the area and because of the proximity to many other contacts.
2004– A few families in the Brisbane area were meeting regularly on the Lord’s Day. Jason, his wife Melody and their family also travelled extensively to visit and encourage the faraway brethren. They remained very busy with visitors, home schooling and answering inquiries.
2005– The Kauffmans moved to Gympie and property was purchased there. A few families were meeting together on the Lord’s Day and it looked favourable that a Church could be formed there.
2006 to 2009– There were several years of testing and some discouraging times – two steps forward, one step back. A few came and stayed; many came and left. Would a Church be formed?
The Kauffmans stayed in touch with and continued to visit a number of families from other areas. Eli and Naomi Kauffman (Jason’s uncle and aunt) and some otherswent to Australia from time to time and served in supporting roles for a few months at a time. Bible Conferences were held every fall. Various speakers from the U.S. travelled to Australia to minister and bring teaching on various subjects.
2010–The Kauffmans received their permanent residency! This allowed them to become self-supporting and officially make Australia their permanent home.
2011– Several families that had been in contact for some time moved to Gympie and the brotherhood grew. Thus, a nucleus of believers came together in the formation of a viable New Testament Church. After the Bible Conference in the fall of 2011, the ACB began to consider the question: “When is a congregation ready for autonomy?”
February 2012– The Lord’s will was diligently sought at a meeting with Brother Jason, the ACB board and brethren from Faith Mennonite Fellowship in Lott, Texas. With unanimous consent and oneness of purpose, it seemed good to them and to the Holy Spirit as well as consistent with the original vision ACB to grant Gympie Anabaptist Church full autonomy and thus recognize them as a functioning Christian congregation. Faith Mennonite Fellowship agreed to serve in a supporting role, coming alongside the Church for counsel, guidance, and accountability.
October 2012– Representatives from the ACB board and Faith Mennonite Fellowship travelled to Australia to commemorate this development, to reflect on their history, and to “officially” recognize the autonomy of the congregation. This was a meaningful and joyful occasion. Heartfelt testimonies to God’s goodness were shared and a genuine spirit of brotherhood and oneness in Christ was felt. A brothers meeting was held after lunch to discuss some of the implications of full autonomy. A letter from Brother Eli Kauffman, the “grandfather” of the flock and first board chairman was read to the group:
Dearly beloved brethren,
It has been the A.C.B. board members’ pleasure and joy to be labourers together under the Lordship of Jesus from the first day until now. It has been our stated vision and endeavour to labour toward seeing a Scriptural Church body established in the “uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This our joy has been fulfilled. It gives us great joy and thanksgiving to God for each one of you for your obedience to Christ and His Word. For we humbly recognize that if you had not first yielded your lives to Him you would never had heeded the preaching and instruction of strangers from halfway around the globe.
Realizing that we were but a mission board planting the seed of The Word of God during our tenure of labour in Australia, we gladly submit you now to our Heavenly Father God as formed into an autonomous congregation of the Body of Christ and as a sister congregation to the people of God in Lott Texas. 1Corinthians 15:58,“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1Corintians 16:13, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
This I trust is the heart of each one of the past and present A.C.B. board members