Helen’s and my university years (the early-mid 1960s) coincided with the start of Tasmania’s Scripture Union camp program in this island state, and we were beautifully piloted through those years by some wonderful people. I want to mention the guiding light we both honour most.
Ian Boss-Walker (1907-87) was a Hobart businessman at that time, with a warm and winning love and interest in all the people in his several circles. Apart from his home life and the state’s business world, he was deeply involved in his Presbyterian Church, ran a weekly radio Sunday school on Hobart commercial radio, and was a key supporter of the state branch of Scripture Union (“SU”), an English-based organisation that published notes and guides for daily Bible reading, prompted the formation of Christian groups in schools, conducted evangelistic programs where families holiday (beach and inland camping parks), and provided training for all this work. SU’s several areas of Christian service continue today as well as now coordinating the placement of and support for school chaplains.
Ian Boss-Walker was also a keen bushwalker (as numerous Tasmanians today are) and in 1964 he published Peaks and High Places, an early guidebook to the “Overland Track”, the famed 80 km hiking track through Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park.
In support of Christian work (and I’m sure to promote bushwalking in the idyllic Tasmanian environment) Ian was often involved with the small Christian group at the University of Tasmania, whether as a speaker, a camp leader, by opening his home for leaders’ meetings, and to recruit interested people and train them for the fledgling “beach missions” and “SU Camps”.
Helen, I and one of my sisters thus came to be members of Tasmania’s earliest SU beach missions and Camps. Ian Boss-Walker was the recruiter, organiser, spiritual and pastoral mainstay, and chief resource and model for the first of these training camps, beach missions and high-schooler camps. What we learnt there has been of enormous benefit to both of us.
- It enabled us to break out of the Dutch migrant church and social cocoon in which we had both grown up.
- We met other Protestant Christian young people from a range of Tasmanian church affiliations and learnt from a relatively young age to understand, respect and value other Christians, and to work with others in Christian service.
- The training, mission and camping programs taught us a valuable list of skills: teaching and work with children and teenagers, public speaking and story telling, talking about Christian faith and values with non-Christian adults (such as parents), bush and residential camping skills, team building and leadership (in both general and Christian terms), and last but not least, a deep love and knowledge of the Tasmanian bush and bushcraft.
- In the course of all this, Helen and I discovered over several youthful and formative years that we enjoyed each other as friends and co-workers and as we talked about many of the issues of spreading our young wings, coming from a similar nest: we were preparing for a life of shared faith and values.
I’m sure that many of my contemporaries who were part of these stories of my youth were also shaped by what were some wonderfully rich years. But for Helen and me they were extra special because of our cultural “coming out”.
Our present 3 months back in Tasmania are giving us much cause to reflect on our few but formative years here, and to feel deep wonder at the ways in which we see God’s good and wise hands shaping us for a wonderful, harmonious and productive life of Christian service and marriage.
We did catch up briefly with Ian Boss-Walker a few times in the first years after we left Tasmania in 1967. If only he were still able to have dinner with us one more time so that we could update him on what he has meant for us and our family!