Giving thanks to God
Posted on: 21st November 2023
Under God, many people have served with CMS over the years. We regularly acknowledge and give thanks to God for former or current CMS missionaries who have been called home to be with their heavenly Father. Here we remember Ulla Arthur, Peter Dawson, Lesley McGrath-Woodley, Lorraine Mitchell and Marion Gabbott.
Giving thanks: Peter Dawson
We thank God for the life of Peter Dawson, who went to be with Christ on 9 August, aged 91. Peter studied at Moore Theological College and was ordained in 1957. He served the Lord in two parishes, and in 1958 he married Marie Coleman, who had been a nurse with CMS in Roper River, NT and they offered to serve with CMS together. In 1959 they began their first period of service in Tanzania. Bishop Alf Stanway appointed Peter as the Principal of Msalato Bible College near Dodoma. He also became the Director of the Msalato Literature and Christian Education Centre. Throughout this time, he and Marie were greatly appreciated by the missionary community and the Tanzanians for their warm hospitality. After a time for Peter as Overseas Secretary for CMS Australia, he and Marie offered to CMS again and in 1992, they went to Zaire (now DR Congo). There, in Kindu, they were involved in evangelism and the formation of two Bible schools. They were evacuated at the end of 1996 due to the civil war and returned to Australia. The Congolese church remembers them for their devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, and their desire to make him known to others, no matter how difficult the circumstances might be. We thank God for Peter and Marie’s ministries, and pray for their family and for God’s people in DR Congo and in Tanzania.
Giving thanks: Ulla Arthur
We thank God for the life of Ulla Arthur, who died suddenly in Brisbane on 31 August, aged 81. Bill and Ulla served the Lord with CMS in Tanzania from 1995-2005. Bill worked as a supervisor and monitor of a number of development programs in Dodoma. Ulla exercised her gift of hospitality, and taught English at the Diocesan English Centre and Msalato Bible School. She contributed secretarial, musical and financial skills at the Canon Andrew Mwaka Primary and Secondary Schools. Please pray for Bill, unexpectedly alone now after 52 years of Christian marriage, and for his son Nils and his wife Kylie, and others including Ulla’s relatives and friends in Sweden.
Giving thanks: Lesley McGrath-Woodley
Let us praise the Lord for the life of Lesley McGrath-Woodley, who “passed safely into the arms of Jesus” (as her husband Len put it) on the evening of 4 September. She was 75, and she and Len had been married for 34 years. She went with CMS to Peru from 1975 to 1981, seconded to work with Scripture Union (SU) and to be responsible for the camps and Christian groups in schools. Lesley organised the programs, and there were eventually about 200 children involved in them. She trained leaders and drew together Christian school teachers for Bible studies and to encourage them to live for Christ and express their faith to others. On her return she worked in the Ridley College Bookshop, then joined the CMS VIC staff as Education Officer in 1987. She married Len in 1989. In 2005 she was invited to return to Peru and speak at the Second National Conference of SU South America. Her Spanish proved fluent still, and she was immensely encouraged to find that the leaders she had trained in the 1970s “had carried on the work with passion and enthusiasm. God had given the increase, beyond our wildest dreams! […] At the conference, I had been embraced by 230 SU workers from 20 of Peru’s 24 provinces, who each week worked with 32,000 students.” (as reported by Lesley in her memoir Nothing to Hide: A fruitful life ). We praise God for Lesley and ask him to comfort Len and all who knew and loved her.
Giving thanks: Lorraine Mitchell
We praise God for the life of Lorraine Mitchell, who, with her husband Peter, served the Lord with CMS in Lima, Peru from 1986-1992. Lorraine died in Kiama, NSW on 7 October aged 73. She and Peter arrived in Lima in 1987, with their children John and Jenny. As the wife of an Anglican minister, Lorraine worked with Peter in local parishes, ministering alongside Peruvian clergy. There was significant political trouble when they returned to Lima after Home Assignment. With terrorist action increasing, they had to withdraw from their church planting and discipleship ministries. After much prayer and discussion, they believed that they should return to Australia. They resigned in 1992 and Peter took up the parish of Port Kembla. We thank God for Lorraine’s life and pray for Peter, John and Penny, Jenny and Mark, and their grandchildren, Sophie, William and Emilia, as well as their relatives and friends.
Giving thanks: Marion Gabbott
We thank God for the life and ministry of Marion Gabbott, who went to be with Christ on 12 October, aged 83. Together with her husband Stephen, Marion served the Lord with CMS at St Philip’s Theological College in Kongwa, Tanzania from 1972-75. They then served at Maseno Bible School in the Diocese of Maseno South, Kenya, from 1976-79. After parish ministry in Kiama and Maroubra, the Lord called them to Christ Church, in Bangkok, Thailand, for two periods: first in 1998-2004 and then 2005-06. Marion worked in children’s, orphanage, refugee and prison ministries, as well as in other ministries associated with the congregations meeting at Christ Church. She also found time to tutor a young Karen Christian in several of the Moore College Preliminary Theological Certificate courses.
Their ministry in Bangkok was followed by some months in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, in 2007. After this, they returned to Sydney for three and a half years as Senior Assistants in the parish of Cronulla with Kurnell. They retired to Ulladulla at the beginning of 2011, but the Lord called them back to Tanzania for a final year at St Margaret’s in Moshi in 2012. We thank God for Marion’s keen faith and active ministry alongside Stephen in both CMS contexts and in several Australian parishes. We pray for Stephen and the extended family, especially children Meredith, Bernard and Martha, their families, and other friends.
 McGrath-Woodley, Lesley 2022, Nothing to Hide: A Fruitful Life, Broad Continent Publishing, Australia.