Pastor answers the call
On Geoff Schefe’s first day of pastor school he asked himself what the hell he was doing. Going to Australian Lutheran College in Adelaide was no rush of blood from a young man as Schefe was 50. Ten years later, he is the new pastor of the Manawatu¯ Lutheran Parish. Schefe’s story starts in rural Queensland, where he grew up on cattle properties. He lived on an Aboriginal mission, where his father was head stockman, for five years. He had three younger brothers. “I was the guinea pig. ‘Let’s try this out, no that didn’t work’.” The Schefes were brought up Lutheran from the day they were born. By trade, Geoff is a motor mechanic but he worked out halfway through his apprenticeship he is not a gadget person but a people person. “I relate more to people than I do to inanimate objects.” He soon moved into customer service and people relationship industries. Schefe says God started calling when he was about 19 and he eventually gave up saying no. “It was a call, God said ‘I want you’ and he persisted.” In 2011, a week after major flooding hit the Queensland city, Schefe and wife Rosie drove out of Toowoomba headed to Adelaide. Lutheran College was a “real eye opener”; he hadn’t done a lot of study for many years and the second lesson on his first day was double biblical Hebrew and biblical Greek. “I said on my first day ‘what the hell am I doing here’. But I got through, I passed.” When he started, he was the oldest first-year student the college had had at 50 years and two weeks. However, that crown is now held by Christchurch pastor Darryl Shoesmith, who was 56 when he started. Schefe was ordained in December 2015 and served as pastor at Holy Trinity in Horsham for five and a bit years. Horsham is halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, in the Wimmera region of western Victoria. Schefe says the topography of Horsham is similar to Palmerston North — flat country but brown rather than green. Land is used to grow wheat, barley, legumes and canola, plus farm sheep. The temperature in winter is not a lot different to here but in summer can reach 45 degrees. Geoff and Rosie have twin sons, aged 24. One lives in Adelaide and the other in Horsham. Geoff’s daughter from a previous marriage has two sons and lives in the Atherton Tablelands. Schefe says churches are still needed as people still need care and protection and a reminder of God’s love. Church is a place of solace for people when they are feeling out of sorts and need a shoulder. Traditionally people have turned to the church and not to the bottle, gambling or other abusive means. The message the church teaches is still relevant and probably even more relevant than most people like to acknowledge, he says. The community needs to be reminded God is still there, always has been there, and is waiting for errant and good people to turn or return to him. God is still relevant. “He created everything, everything belongs to him, so it behoves us to listen to him and try and do our best to actually do what he says,” Schefe says. “He’s the boss, he created it, he’s got control over everything.” God has always been relevant. “We may forget about God but he never forgets about us, every single last one of us.” God, through his son Jesus, is always there with big arms waiting for us to come and say we have mucked up again. The Lutheran Church of New Zealand is a district of the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand and Adelaide is the only place pastors are trained. The Manawatu¯ parish, St Luke’s in Palmerston North and Trinity in Feilding, was struggling to find a pastor and had been without one for nearly three years. Once Schefe agreed to come to Manawatu¯ , there were holdups as Immigration New Zealand didn’t see him as an essential worker. He arrived on June 24, nearly six months from the time he said yes to Bishop Mark Whitfield. There were also delays caused by Covid-19, plus lots of prayer, heartache, hairpulling, knock backs and roadblocks. He found the call to come to New Zealand very akin to the call to be a pastor. “God called me, here I am.” He’s never been to New Zealand before, while Rosie had only been to Wellington for a three-day conference.