Our Swan Song.

2019 has been a significant year in the Evans family history.

It is not only the year we both turned 80 but is also the year we celebrated our 55th Wedding Anniversary.

It’s not surprising that given our history that we would want to celebrate.

Celebrations by their very nature are usually self serving exercise in their focus.

I guess that is inevitable but somehow as I reflected upon how we should celebrate I became conscious of the fact that there is much more to celebrate than our own lives.

You see, all of us are a product of others who have invested in our lives and intrinsically deserve recognition.

From our parents & family, to our educators, to our friends and colleagues and most of all the one whom we have committed our lives to serve.

On the 5th October our family invited over 150 guests to celebrate our 80th Birthday and Wedding anniversary.

It was a joyous occasion and gave us an opportunity to recognise, honour and thank those who were able to attend over a delicious meal.

Naturally we would have liked to have invited many others but obviously that was not possible.

The guest list included many former missionaries & ministry colleagues, former church staff & some members of the Taigum Gardens & Toowoomba Churches where we had pastored in our latter years of ministry.

As I said, it was a joyous occasion which gave both Betty & I an opportunity to express our love and appreciation.

Earlier this year our local pastors, Mark & Nina Elmendorp from emergechurch.life honoured us publicly during a Sunday morning worship service and very generously gave us the pulpit to say a few words, expressing our love and appreciation to the Church family. 

It was something I wanted to always do,  just to say “thank you” to the  everyday mums and dads and church members and leaders, who represented generations of Godly people who had faithfully supported us on this amazing ministry journey!

Including my Sepik brothers, David Silingin and Jacob Ganba, who walked with me through the jungles of Papua New Guinea and unobtrusively prepared me culturally to become a better servant of the Lord to the people of Papua New Guinea. 

This then was the testimony or ‘orbituary’ if you like that I gave to the church on the 19 May 2019.

‘At the early age of five I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus at my mother’s knee in India during the last world war, while my parents were serving as missionaries to India.

All my life I have loved Jesus and desired to follow Him.

He has watched over me and us through this incredible journey called “life”.

Im officially an old man now and have wondered what else I need to do before I leave this world.

The one thing I want to do today is to say “Thank You” to the  “The Church” for your loving support during our ministry years.

You see, you as a congregation represent to me, the thousands of people whom I have served and who have supported me in return all through my life.

Over my lifetime local churches like the Cairns Assembly of God and various other churches throughout Australia have supported us in our missionary endeavours.

During the Charismatic Renewal years we received the support from my home church, the Klemzig & Paradise pentecostal communities.

In the 1980s & 90s we were blessed to receive the support of the Taigum Gardens Assembly of God here in Brisbane. 

In our final 12 years of ministry, we were privileged to be supported by one of Australia’s oldest and largest rural Churches, the Toowoomba Assembly of God. 

So you can see it takes a lot of good people to make a missionary/pastor successful and I want to thank you for not only your prayer support but emotional and financial support.

Betty & I haven’t sung publicly for many years but at Emerge Church we got out of our comfort zone and sang this old song for the last time.

It may sound a little flat and quaint but ironically it is our ‘swan song’!

It only seems like yesterday when we left home to began our adult journey which we call “Ministry”.

During that time we married and were blest with five children.

Inevitably they all grow up and make their own way in life and ‘payback’ begins! lol

I want to thank my children including my ‘only’ daughter Mary & her husband Dan for providing their home as a venue for this event and make it so special.

Birthday Parties by their very nature focus all attention upon who’s birthday is being celebrated. 

However tonight as I am only 80 and still cognitive, I want to make this occasion a time to honour and express my personal appreciation to you,  for your contribution to my life and that of my family.

When I am 90 I reckon I can afford to think about me!

You see none of us can really boast of our achievements or success in life, because in essence we are all the product of the influences of many people who have passed through our lives and the grace of God.

Growing up in India to parents who were totally sold out to Christ had a great impact upon my life.

My mother in particular was predominantly the one who shaped my life. 

Naturally I am very grateful for a christian upbringing even though it was extremely legalistic at times.

It helped put the fear of God into me which later in life protected me from all sort of crazy things this inquisitive natured boy wanted to try.

She taught me to forgive and repent.

At an early age I knelt at my mothers knee one afternoon while she and my father were praying together as was their habit, praying for others on a mission station where we lived in India. 

Although I was only five years of age I committed my life to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ and from that day to this have dedicated my life to follow Him.

By nature I am an adventurous person and my early years growing up in India provided some amazing experiences.

I suppose the word “Adventure” best describe my journey.

Ministry Adventures, Family Adventures and Marriage Adventures.

I have tried to live by the edict of Psalm 37:23 “The Steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord”.

Even though on this journey called “life” I have failed as a “good man” on numerous occasions!

I have learned however to gratefully receive the grace of God and live in the knowledge of Proverbs 3:6  “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path.”

I have never been driven by success but have enjoyed its blessings when it came my way.

Call me an “adventurous phlegmatic” if you like, but at my age who cares?

I suppose of all the adventures that I have enjoyed most, is the Marriage Adventure.

I married Betty purely because she was beautiful and in answer to prayer and Faith. ….If you want to know the story take a look at the Index on the right of this page and you can read it there. – Index “How I met my Wife?

Why I mention it is because the people in my life helped me make the right decision.

In mentioning my marriage adventure I have a number of people to thank who are here today. 

Beryl Jobe was instrumental in arranging a very romantic venue for me to propose to Betty in her lounge room of the Manse at Klemzig in  January1964…… Im sure she was hovering outside the door wondering how I was handling it. 

Betty turned me down at first but finally relented the next evening.

Beryl who was probably in the Kitchen praying  and I in the Lounge room proposing got the job done and Betty said “Yes”! 

Thank you Beryl!

Les Jones who himself had recently married,  was another who helped me bring my marriage vows to fruition. 

Les was my best man and helped this poor missionary sort out the things men had to do like getting the Wedding Cars and driving me around in his car etc. 

He even drove us down to a new High Seas Motel at Surfers Paradise for our honeymoon …. Ahh what a day that was …. The Best Day of my Life bar none! Say no more Fred!

Seriously though, I need to express my appreciation to my darling wife Betty who has lived a selfless life being married to me.

She has behind the scenes made me very happy and chose a path of sacrifice to nurture  and bring up our family to love and respect God.

She is far more intelligent than I am and would have succeeded in the academic world of the medical profession.

Instead she chose to answer the call of God to be a missionary, a wife, a mother of 5 children, an unofficial pastor, an author, a seamstress and a grandmother who is second to none.

This year we celebrate not only our 80th Birthday but our 55 Wedding Anniversary.

Then there has been the Ministry Adventure that Betty & I enjoyed.

Time does not allow me to tell of the incredible influence many of you had in our lives in those early days of missionary service.

Ps Roy Short in particular was a great mentor to me and took me under his wing in those early years of missionary service as we trekked through the jungle to reach villages with the Gospel.

Cyril & Ev were other senior missionaries who left an impact upon my life and I thank them.

(The national executive of the ACC  may not realise it but in this gathering tonight sits an old man Cyril Westbrook who in my opinion, is the greatest church planter Australia has produced.

Today the Assemblies of God Church in Papua New Guinea is larger numerically than the ACC in Australia.)

Then there is the ministry adventure here in Australia.

I remember arriving back in Australia after 15 years or so in PNG and wondering how I would cope?

Of all things,  I was feeling anxious as to how I would be able to support my family financially.

He may not realise it but Don Usher, my tax adviser at the time spoke a Word of comfort into my ear.

He said “Fred we live in a wonderful country, you will never lack for food or a roof over your head”…… That was such a blessing of comfort to me.

My brother Andrew is another I should mention.

He called me to help him on the Ministry Team at Klemzig. in 1976

For ten years we worked on the ministry team at Klemzig.

Betty worked tirelessly and unheraled in the Children’s ministry and helped lay foundations in the lives of many children who today are in leadership.

It was a time that arguably saw the greatest growth in Australian AOG church history.

They were incredible days for Andrew and the team as we built on the foundations laid by Ps John & Beryl  Jobe & Ps Gerald & Elizabeth Rowlands.

The large Paradise Church building was opened and we enjoyed the privilege of ministering to a huge congregation of wonderful supportive people. 

Then we came to Brisbane and took over the Church at Taigum. I did so much enjoy the challenge. 

Some of the “Taigumites” are here tonight and I thank them for their Support & Love during those wonderful years of growth.

Unfortunately Shirley Strickland from the Taigum years is unable to be here. 

She too was an incredible personal secretary to me.

Tony Gartland – graduated from the Bible collage and joined the team as a Youth Pastor.

What wonderful years of growth they were.

Toowoomba was another adventure which came my way in 1993 where we saw steady growth and the privilege  of working with a wonderful team of people.

There are so many to thank!

Maria Onions is here tonight and along with her husband Ps Vic who has gone to be with the Lord, were an incredible blessing to the church at Spring St. 

Vic became the most loved and respected Marriage celebrant on the Team as well as his ministry in the Yukana Retirement Village. ….

Pam Smith who is also here tonight was my Secretary, PA and events manager.  

Thank you Pam for your faithful service for all those years.

Martyn & June Harris (who unfortunately could not be here today) ….. who came to my rescue and took over the management of the Yukana Retirement Village.

Peter Marks  – Prayed with me every Saturday morning for over 10 years.

Andreas & Ruth Helwig – who started Project Madagascar;  www.projectmadagascar.org.au

The Toowoomba Ministry Team . Ps Russell & Nicky Harper, Nigel & Marilyn Bell, Shane Briggs are also on my thank you list.

Then we retired to Brisbane.

It’s not easy retiring finding a new house, new church to attend and new friends.

We were blessed to have our good friends & colleagues Ps Ian & Jan Parker pastoring the Albany Hills Christian Church which was nearby,  so we went there.

Later Ps Mark & Nina Elmendorp became our senior pastors.

Interestingly they came to the Albany Hills church from the Paradise Assembly of God our home church.

One of the struggles old pastors have is retiring with grace and not interfering in the affairs of church or it’s management.

It has been a joy to love & support Ps Mark & Nina in our years of retirement.

Finally i need to mention our growing Family Adventure.

I said to Betty when we got married I want lots of children….. she gave me five. …. I wanted more!

Ted, David, Mary & Philip….. (I wanted another girl to give a sister to Mary but instead we got John-Paul (deceased) who was 45 last month) and then came Philip. 

I suppose looking back on life my greatest joy is not how many souls I’ve won or how many churches I’ve pioneered or built …….but what kind of a family have I produced?

My Five Children of course are up there in favouritism particularly when they were young and obedient. 

Today I view them with a strong bias of all embracing love.

I am so proud of them as they have brought me incredible Joy …. (and tragic pain) which I probable needed to bring honest perspective into my life and knock the pride out of me .

The joy of growing old is that  ….. as my missionary colleague Bob Spence said to me not so long ago ….. “I only seem to remember the good and positive things that have happened in life as I grow older”.

In Conclusion.

I do have some special people in my life apart from Betty.

I have 13 ‘favourite’ grandchildren seven are serving you here today, three are in America and three are in Heaven.

I want more but Ill have to wait and see!

Well dear friend I have said enough! 

To conclude this article or “blog” as they call it, I am posting this song that I have asked David to sing at my funeral (seriously!) It was recorded on my iPhone at our recent 80th party.

It expresses a question I would ask of you as a reader of this post.

‘Have you met the man from Galilee’?

May God bless you and speak to you today!

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