On Sunday 5th February 2023, Marrawah Baptist Church held their final service when 78 people squeezed in to give thanks. They took it out with a bang. You can watch snippets of the service via YouTube, below.
Personally, my ministry started in Marrawah, and I had the privilege of MC’ing the service. A long time ago, I led the local youth group, and gave my first sermon in the mid-90’s. Patrick Bakes, who has been a regular speaker and encourager at Marrawah, shared a couple of songs.
Ted Nibbs, who has also been a regular speaker at Marrawah for many decades, gave the final sermon. This was complemented by Stephen Baxter (Mission Director for Tasmanian Baptists). Both men spoke of the seasons of God’s work, and the sewing of seeds over the years, but also the courage to know when it is time to complete a chapter and see what God opens next.
However, the people worthy of note are those who kept this church functioning these recent, sparse years: Peter and Silvia Godman, and Ada Baldock.
FROM LEFT: People gathered early; Pre-service morning tea; The building was packed out!;Speakers on the day.
Seventy Years of Service
Marrawah Baptist church began in 1953, and during our closing service one of the founding members, Miriam Godman, shared some of the history. Marrawah has grown and commissioned many missionaries, held thriving Girls Brigades, summer-clubs, hosted ‘GodStock’ (Christian Surfers of Tasmania camp), and was often the starting point for Bike for Bibles.
Stephen Baxter reflected on the day saying, “It was my privilege, on behalf of Tas Baptists, to join the folk at Marrawah as they celebrated the faithfulness of God and to give thanks for the service of many people over many decades.
“It was also a day of mixed emotions. Our Baptist work was the last remaining church to close in Marrawah. There was grief in that, but also hope and expectation for what God might do next.”
Is there something else in the pipeline at Marrawah? “Watch this space,” was all Stephen could say.
The thanksgiving service at Marrawah Baptist was a sad occasion as the doors were closed for the last time. But please pray with us as we determine God’s will for Marrawah.
Dan Evenhuis recently began working at Citywide Baptist as the Executive Pastor.
I hail from Smithton,and I spent my early years with my four siblings on a cattle farm. My family had a strong Christian focus, with Bible readings and prayer at mealtimes. Currently, I am Executive Pastor for Citywide Baptist Church. My job is to help the smooth running of our church. I’m also focusing on worship, pastoral care, and outreach.
We lived in Melbourne when I was between the ages of four and 12, while Dad ministered to the Melbourne Jewish Community. Then, when I turned 13, we returned to Smithton. I found the transition very difficult, although it was during this period I met Jesus, who became my best friend. I was constantly aware of His presence and a natural friendly relationship developed, and I was very conscious of God with me. As I rode my bike to the milking shed at 5:30am, I’d talk to Jesus along the way as though it was the most natural thing.
As an adult, I have loved working with the Youth and Community organisation Fusion, with committed godly communities around the world, seeing others being saved. I loved to see the effect no matter what the denomination.
Reaching our communities is the long-game.
My most recent experience with Fusion was in Oxfordshire UK, bringing the community together in a three-day festival. It was an amazing few days, ending a quite depressing year. I felt people were feeling something like, “I respect and admire these people and know they are Christians. They’re smart and don’t seem deluded, but they really believe in this God stuff. I must be missing something.” Reaching our communities is the long-game. It’s a lot of work and investment, but so worth it.
Family and the BIG move
Danni and I have been married now for 21 years. Back in the UK she taught and did dance instructing. Now, she’s teaching at Calvin Christian School in Kingston. We have four children aged from 11 to 17 years old. When I am asked how I do spend my time, I say: “I have four kids!”
Last year, we decided to come back to Tasmania after 18 fulfilling years of ministry in the UK. Back in 2014 a few of us in Oxfordshire started a less formal, and more welcoming, family-friendly Church. It continued to grow due to its unique ministry and had become stable. Now that the church is sustainable, Danni and I thought it’s time to go back to Tasmania. Family is important, and yet for 18 years we’d been doing mission on the other side of the world. It was time to expose our English-born children to Aussie culture as well as give them time to get to know their cousins, grandparents, uncles and aunties. Slowly, they’re beginning to settle into Tasmanian life. It’s going to take a lot of time though for them to feel like they belong. Please pray for them after this big international move.
In Tasmania, we love the nature and the outdoors, the beauty, and the stunning surroundings. We always thought Hobart was one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and now we live here! My family also enjoy having extended family around. It’s different to being in a country on our own. I remember on a holiday here seven years ago, my kids were surprised someone had a photo of them up in their loungeroom. It was my Auntie from Burnie. Family is like that.
I am really looking forward to getting to know the Citywide family, and other Christians across the state. I think the church seems to be struggling a fair bit here in Tasmania, and I’m so keen for us to work with God and throw all we have into His ministry.
Life Challenges for Dan Evenhuis
The best advice I have received is: “A calm sea never made a good sailor”. God does not ask us to cram our Christian mission beyond our busy life. We decide how much time to allocate. I’m keen for the church to be a source of enlightenment in our community – for us not to be in our Christian ghettos, but to bring Christ within reach of those around us.
I have many challenges in everyday life. Running a church is busy work and I want to be careful that we manage how much of our effort goes into a Sunday Service. Many churches invest around 80% of their time and resources into that one Service. I would instead love to say, if you want to get to know our church, don’t just turn up on a Sunday, come and see us through the week as well. For example at Citywide, there is an amazing craft group which meets on Thursdays, with about 100 attendees. Our purpose is to stay outward focused because we exist for those who are not in the church yet!
I’d really appreciate your prayers for me, that I can stand back and have some time with God regularly so I can work out what he wants me to work on. There are no end of jobs to do, but I want to do what he has for me today.
I am looking forward to … bushwalking with my family.
I am worried about … many struggling churches across Tasmania.
I am confident that … I’m where God wants me.
I am joyful about … being around family.
I would like to change … church being performance- and sermon-driven. I’d love to see the church becoming a vibrant, God-centred community of believers involved in whole-life ministry.
I am at my best when … I am close to God and aware of His love for me.