EFAC Australia


Interview with Ben Wong - Chinese Ministry Coordinator in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne

Mark Simon speaks with Rev. Canon. Ben Lui Wong, Chinese Ministry Coordinator, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, and Senior Minister, St. Timothy’s Bulleen and St Mark’s Templestowe Anglican Churches.

Mark: How did you become a Christian?

Ben: I was born in China, grew up in Hong Kong, then came to Melbourne for study. It was here I met Ivy, who later became my wife. She was a Christian, and in the early years of marriage, I just dropped her off at church but never went in. One day a woman specifically came to me and invited me in. During that first service I attended, a very strong voice came to my mind saying, ‘you will be like that person on the stage speaking to others.’ The minister encouraged me to get to know Jesus before taking steps to become a preacher! So I joined a course, and came to put my faith in Jesus, and 8 or 9 years later, I did become ‘that person’ proclaiming the gospel to others.

Mark: Have you always had a cross-cultural ministry, or did you grow into it?

Ben: When I first graduated from Bible College, I thought I would primarily use Cantonese and Mandarin, and reach native speakers of those languages in Melbourne. But when I became a Youth Minister in the Chinese congregation I needed to relate to Australian-born Chinese kids, who were using English as much as Chinese. So my vision widened. Now I am the minister of a multi-site church with English, Cantonese, and Mandarin services. If God had shown me that too early, I might have run away from it.

Mark: Do you think Chinese or other immigrants in Australia are more open to the gospel at the moment than Anglo-Australians? Why might that be?

Since the 1930s Crusaders has been seeking to proclaim Jesus to the students of independent schools, to nurture Christians, encourage church membership and train young Christians for leadership. More recently CRU West has revived Crusaders’ presence in WA. CRU West staff worker Sheridan Raston brings us up to date.

The National Church Life Survey claims a phenomenal statistic, that 80% of adult Christians come to faith before they are 18. Therefore, it is the youth of our nation that warrant significant focus. However, the number of children and teenagers in our churches is decreasing and the world in which these kids live is significantly more difficult to navigate while respecting their faith than in years past. Christian students are a minority in Australian schools, where attitudes towards Christianity seem to have gone from indifference to hostility at a rapid pace. The need for young people to be supported in their faith is greater than ever; encouragement, equipping and nurturing all appear more vital than ever. And yet we hold on to the promise of Christ: “I will build my church”.

The earnest ambition of CRU West is to care for and provide opportunities to these students—especially in regard to faith development—in ways that they otherwise might not experience.

We want to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the students of Western Australian schools.cru1

As such, we seek to nurture Christians, encourage church membership and train young Christians for a lifetime of servant leadership. 


CRU West is a relatively new initiative of CRU Australia. The Crusader Union of Australia (now known as CRU) was founded in 1930 by the Reverend Dr. Howard Guinness. Dr Guinness was a visionary who had set up Christian ministries in universities across the world. When he came to Australia, he was surprised to see few strong Christians in universities. He saw the necessity to establish school-based ministries as a platform for developing faith early, to see young Christians founded in their faith through school, into university and beyond. He established voluntary groups in schools and camp ministries as a key way of achieving this. Thus, in 1930, CRU saw its first four school groups begin along with the very first holiday camp. CRU has experienced significant growth over the years, now working in hundreds of schools and running hundreds of school and holiday camps in NSW and the ACT. We believe this ministry has met a real need and God has been at work through the ministry of CRU, and we are praying for the same long term fruit in WA.

CRU West helps to establish and support voluntary lunchtime groups in primary and high schools across WA. These groups offer students the chance to read the Bible and pray together, providing a space for their faith to grow. We also run camps for upper primary and high schoolers in the holidays in the form of year 12 study camps, Christian leadership camps and activity camps. Students from a variety of schools spend a week away, are invested into and are immersed in a positive community where they are served, mentored and trained by a group of Christian volunteers. Through these two avenues— school groups and camps—CRU West creates an environment for students to develop spiritually, as they enjoy being part of a wider Christian family. Our hope is that Christian students will be encouraged in three ways: to own their faith; to flourish in their schools and to serve their churches and other ministries.

In God’s goodness, the impact has been substantial over the past three years.

We have gone from five groups in 2017 to over 20 in 2019.

We now run three camps where numbers have grown exponentially. But it is ultimately not a numbers game. The most important way of gauging success is through the individual lives of the students with whom we work and how we have seen God at work. Students have told us how they have come to faith or have grown in their faith. Rory Shiner, Senior Pastor of Providence Church Perth, says

“CRU West is a very exciting development on the school scene in Perth, addressing a real gap in the gospel ecosystem of our city. The history of this work in Australia has brought untold fruit for the gospel in seeing young men and women eternally impacted, and in producing gifted, well-trained and servant-hearted leaders for the next generation of Christian leadership.”7

While youth groups are vital for the teaching and equipping of Christians kids in our churches, they cannot go with their students into their playgrounds and classrooms which are like a missionary front line. That is where CRU West comes in. CRU West aims to meet youth where they are, in their schools. We want to see Christian communities in schools, where faith is encouraged and supported. One student said,

“CRU West has had a significant impact on my faith. I’ve been a camper on CRU West’s Spring Leadership Camp where we had inspiring Bible talks, discussion groups, prayer times and training in Christian leadership each day. I had the chance to connect with older Christian mentors, asking questions and seeking advice. I also made lots of new friends who I still keep I contact with today. This camp brought me so much closer to God and I felt greatly encouraged knowing that I had other Christians my age and mentors who were walking alongside me, even after camp finished. I also attend the weekly Bible study at my school, which is supported by CRU West. CRU provides resources for the Bible studies, which makes organising and facilities the group much easier, and keeps us focussed. The school environment makes it difficult to admit that I’m a Christian for fear of being teased or excluded, but knowing that I have other peers who share the same beliefs and purpose, as well as having CRU West supporting me, is encouraging and comforting, and helps me to stand firm.”

It is easy to become discouraged as our society seems to move further away from God, and to celebrate things God opposes. Through my work with CRU West, I have had the blessing of witnessing God at work amongst upper primary and high school students. As the challenges to being a Christian child in WA grow, God is pouring out his Spirit, breathing new life, and preparing the next generation of saints to do his work— that is really something to celebrate, to cherish and to ask God to do more of in 2020.



LonnyBendessiAboriginal Christian and growing leader, Lonny Bendessi, shares his remarkable story with Essentials


I was born in Adelaide. My family on my mother’s side is from a small place called Ceduna, which is 800km far west of Adelaide, we’re known as the West Coast mob. My father is from Western Australia, his mob are the Wongi mob from Kalgoorlie. I’m the second child of four in my family but I have a lot of cousins and we all call each other brother and sister. I found out I had a lot of first cousins who spoke English as a second language, they’re living out bush and wouldn’t live in the city.

I grew up in Adelaide until the age of 5 then Mum told me we’re going to Ceduna because that’s where we’re from. I stayed there until the age of 9 and that’s how I found out who I was, and that my people are the Wirangu people in the south and the Kokatha people just north of there. We stayed in a small community called Koonibba. It was interesting growing up there, as kids we would run amuck, didn’t care about anything, it was freedom. At home sometimes you’re surrounded by alcohol and violence but my mum and my cousins we all had each other. We’d all jump on our bikes to go out bush, ride around the whole community, make BMX jumps and climb trees.

As we approach the 60th anniversary year of the momentous 1959 Billy Graham Crusade in Australia, Bishop Tony Nichols recalls how Graham touched the people around him, and what flowed out of this and later Crusades.

Bishop Tony Nichols ministers at St Lawrence’s Dalkeith, WA and beyond.

Next year marks the sixtieth anniversary of Billy Graham’s first visit to Australia in 1959 when he led ‘crusades’ across all capital cities over a four-month period. To commemorate the remarkable outpouring of God’s Spirit in which thousands decided to follow Christ, Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, will speak in each capital city in February 2019.

Billy Graham was invited to Australia by the Primate of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Howard Mowll who did not live to witness the extraordinary results. His initiative, however, launched an unprecedented ecumenical movement which saw thousands of Christians from different denominations meeting weekly for prayer for God’s blessing on Australia. Over 8,000 enrolled for counsellor training in Sydney alone. Those training sessions were a great blessing to me personally, not least because we had to learn off by heart over twenty passages of Scripture. Volunteers were also organised for support roles and each of the choirs had a thousand members. The organisation was superb.

Proclaiming Christ in the Heart of the City: Ministry at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.Proclaiming


The last two years have seen significant anniversaries for St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. The year 2019 was the bicentenary of the laying of its foundation stone, and 2018 marked 150 years since its eventual consecration. It is fitting therefore that this volume has been produced to mark both occasions. It is even more fitting that the focus of the volume is not on the building itself, but on the building of Christ’s Kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel in and through the ministry of the cathedral. As Archbishop Glenn Davies writes in his foreword, “this book focuses upon the living testimony of our cathedral, its living stones, rather than its static stonework.” (p. xii).

The opening chapter by Loane charts the history of Anglican cathedrals, their purpose and particular characteristics. Along the way he answers the common critique that Anglican cathedrals “are unreformed vestiges of the medieval church which have no place in Protestant Christianity.” (p. 4) Tracing sources dating back to the English reformers, Loane shows that Protestant cathedrals were envisioned as serving both an evangelistic and a training purpose. With a shortage of clergy able to preach, Cranmer considered cathedrals to be places that ought to function as centres of preaching excellence. The reformers’ notion of cathedrals serving as central churches from which bishops could direct the mission of the diocese through preaching and training of ministers was the reason why cathedrals were retained, and was also viewed by the reformers as returning them to their original Augustinian purpose (p. 22). The chapter also discusses reasons why this hope was largely not realised in the ensuing centuries, and how by the mid-19th century cathedrals had become ideal venues for re-establishing the ceremonial ritualism that had characterised the medieval church. At the same time Evangelicals continued to conceive of cathedrals as centres of mission, preaching and leadership training. It was during this contested era that the trajectory of the Sydney cathedral was shaped. In 1857, Bishop Barker outlined the purpose of the cathedral to be the “parish church” of the whole diocese where the diocesan “chief pastor”, the bishop, could minister and preach. (p. 41).

Building on this foundation, the central section of the book consists of four chapters, the first three dedicated in turn to the Cathedral’s longest-serving deans: William Cowper (by Peter Bolt), Albert Talbot (by Colin Bale) and Lance Shilton (by Edward Loane). The fourth chapter (by Jane Tooher) considers the contribution of William Cowper’s first wife Margaret. Each of these biographical chapters give real insight into the nature of the ministry at the cathedral during those eras. The deans were chosen not only because were they the longest-serving, but also because the eras in which they served were so formative.

Australia’s first native-born clergyman, William Cowper, emerges in Bolt’s portrayal as someone eminently well prepared in the first half of his life for the preaching and ministry-training priorities that remained his priorities during his long tenure as dean (1858-1902). The chapter by Colin Bale on Dean Albert Talbot (1912-1936) explores his role as a more liberal evangelical dean, in particular his involvement in the social issues of Sydney’s industrial working class. Dean Lance Shilton (1973-1989) is shown by Loane to be a clear champion of the cathedral as a centre for evangelism and public engagement. Having had experience in city-centre churches in Melbourne and Adelaide, Shilton was convinced of the strategic role of such churches and his cathedral ministry was a natural extension of that. Shilton summed up the purpose of cathedral ministry as “Communication, that is communication with God in worship, communication with other Christians in fellowship, and communication with the whole city and beyond in evangelism.” (p. 146)

The beautiful chapter on William Cowper’s first wife Margaret by Jane Tooher centres on the last year of her life, as narrated by William. Margaret died four years before William’s appointment as dean, and as he reflects on the spiritual life and tenderness they shared, and Margaret’s boldness in facing death, it is clear how formative this experience of grief was on his ministry over the coming decades.

The final chapter, written by the current Dean, Kanishka Raffel, gives a wonderful insight into the present workings of the cathedral, and the prospects of ministry in that place over the coming years. Such ministry he envisages to be in continuity with his predecessors’ evangelistic focus and keenness for seizing the opportunity for public witness and proclamation to the city. This book fulfils its promise. We meet afresh the ‘living stones’ who through the decades have sought to proclaim Christ, make disciples and show Christ’s love to the city and beyond.

// Gavin Perkins, NSW

Sonya de Lacey gives us a taste of the Bishop’s Training Event in the Diocese of Tasmania.

Sonya de Lacey is the Media and Communications Officer for the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania

The atmosphere had an expectant buzz as 400 plus Anglicans from across Tasmania gathered for the third annual Bishop’s Training Event. This year’s theme was Making Disciples Every Day. It was Saturday 22 September. Music filled the auditorium. Lanyards were handed out. Resource tables were plentiful, covering topics such as: Alpha, Bush Church Aid, Church Missionary Society, Diocesan Training and Youth/Kids ministry info, Safe Church Communities, University Fellowship of Christians and Worldview College—to name just a few. The aroma of freshly ground coffee filtered through the air. This was our biggest event ever with around 350 adults, and 70+ children in the children’s event and creche.

At morning prayer we gave thanks to God that we, his people, could gather together in his name. We asked the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us to be Christ’s disciples, sending us to go and proclaim the gospel, making disciples in our own neighbourhoods and to the ends of the earth. In the morning session Bishop Richard challenged us to ask the Lord of the harvest prayerfully and regularly for workers to send out into the harvest field.1 He concluded his session by sharing a video of Patricia McCormack who goes into Risdon Prison to share the good news. This lovely story showed how God can take our brokenness and create something truly beautiful.2