published in ALWS 70th & Bonegilla on September 16, 2020

Taking care of your care

In its 70 year history, ALWS has been blessed with energetic and passionate leaders, who take seriously the trust placed in them. Here are their messages of thanks to you.

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Dr Brian Neldner, 1960-1964

‘One day I got a letter in the 1980s, addressed to me from a chap I’d never heard of. He said ‘I want to thank you and LWF for the scholarship you gave me in Botswana. I’ve just completed my PhD at Oxford, and am going to go back to my people and work with them.’

I also think of the man I met in Ethiopia in 1970. We had to trek by donkey for 6 days to get to the community where he lived. I met him again 3 years later and he said to me: ‘When you came here 3 years ago my stomach was hitting my back bones. Now look, my stomach is full.

It was a great privilege to work for ALWS/LWS. I always felt so supported by my home church, and for that I am truly grateful.’


Mr Gary Simpson, 1991-2000

‘I remember my first visit to the field… I sent off a telex requesting permission to have a site inspection of the LWS projects.

I received a very quick response agreeing to the request but advising that LWS doesn’t do site inspections, but site visits as guests of the countries and communities visited.

That advice was forefront of my mind as I visited many of the LWS projects around the world.

I’ve been heartened by the growth of support from faithful and generous Lutheran people around Australia and New Zealand, especially from students and staff of Lutheran schools where students take time out to experience the daily routine and food of our brothers and sisters in developing countries.

Thank you for all you are doing for the most vulnerable and voiceless people of the world and thanks to God who, through his grace, provides for his people.’


Mr Peter Schirmer, 2000-2012

‘”If your gift is giving, give generously”.

ALWS is incredibly blessed to have so many people who faithfully respond to St Paul’s encouragement to give generously out of the richness of God’s good gifts to us.

In my time at ALWS, there was a pensioner who periodically sent a $5 note sticky-taped to a piece of paper with a note in shaky handwriting apologising that this was all she could manage on her meagre pension. Truly the widow’s mite.

I felt as great a level of responsibility in the use of that $5 note as I did for the biggest gifts.

ALWS’ donors big and small, old and young are the lifeblood that brings love to life through ALWS’ life saving and life sustaining programs.

May God bless you and the work of your gift.’


Mr Chey Mattner, 2012-2018

‘During a visit to Queensland, an elderly woman approached me with an envelope which she asked me to read afterwards.

Within it was a $10 note, neatly wrapped in aluminum foil, and a message in shaky cursive which said: ‘My husband died last year, and I can no longer give as much as I want but please accept this. It is for others’.

It had such an impact on me that I kept a copy of the note on my desk as a reminder of the enormous responsibility of making each dollar count.

Later that year, I met with teachers in a new school building in Djibouti and told them this story. They said that every time they used the chalk donated by ALWS, they would think of her.

Thank you for all you’ve done ‘for others’ for 70 years through ALWS.’


Ms Jamie Davies, 2018-present

‘In January I visited a camp for internally displaced people in Myanmar, where you help people with shelter, education, livelihoods and counselling support.

To reach the makeshift camp, we travelled for hours in a small boat to an outlying island, and waded through the muddy tides for a few kilometres.

Hakim, the leader of a Parent Teacher Association, told me: ‘In my home of origin we had no access to education. Here at the camp, now our kids go to school. When we didn’t have enough space for all the kids, LWF expanded the learning spaces. I am very pleased with what we have accomplished together!

Not only are the 2,500 kids in the camp now safer, learning, and ready for the future – but the adults looking after them also radiate a sense of confidence, hope and pride.

Thank you for all you do, Lutherans of Australia and NZ, to serve others and make the world a better place.’


Two leaders are no longer with us. We thank them for their wonderful service:
Rev Dr Brian Muetzelfeld, 1950-1960 and Mr Sidney Bartsch, 1965-1990


Do you know…

…three past Directors of ALWS have gone on to leadership positions at LWF Geneva?

Rev Dr Bruno Muetzelfeld, Director of World Service (retired 1980)
Dr Brian Neldner, Director of World Service (retired 1995)
Mr Chey Mattner, Head of LWF Operations (current)


Photos of Brian Neldner and Gary Simpson courtesy Lutheran Archives