Two of Melbourne's new deacons share their faith story
Twenty deacons were ordained by Archbishop Philip Freier on Saturday February 3. Two of the new deacons, Julie Blinco and Moe Win Tun Kin, share something of their faith story with TMA.
By Beryl Rule
A long road of exploration began and ends with a Shepherd
March 3 2018Julie Blinco grew up disillusioned with the church, because people did not appear to live up to its teachings. However, although she did not consider herself to be a Christian for a long time, she did cling to one word from her grade eight confirmation at a North Queensland Anglican high school – the word “shepherd”.
In her gap year she went to Thailand as a Rotary exchange student, lived with a Buddhist family and at one stage spent three days in a Buddhist temple as a lay person.
“Buddhist culture exposed me to people taking their faith seriously,” she said. “It opened my mind to people living their faith and allowing it to permeate through their everyday life.
While she studied for her business/arts degree Julie did a lot of open-minded exploration, “trying out all the ‘isms”, including socialism and communism, as well as “smorgasboard spirituality”. Then, at 21, she was part of a scholarship group of ten which went to study Chinese history in Shanghai. Among the group was a born-again Christian family.
At first she felt “very resistant” to them, but the love in their family life was so apparent that she was intrigued and impressed.
“I thought they were very naive,” she said, “because they prayed about whatever came up. But I wanted to have what they had. They prayed about family health issues, and when I had a headache they prayed about that too – and it got better rapidly. So one night I prayed to God and said, “If you are real and Jesus is the way, I want to know and follow you all my life. But you need to help my cynical mind.”
A series of “miraculous things” followed.
“My Shepherd was calling me,” Julie said. “My faith really started with the Shepherd Prayer at Confirmation, and all those years He had been pulling me back to Him.”
Denise (the wife and mother in the family) had become her particular mentor, and, following her in prayer, Julie became a Christian.
Back in Australia, the family continued to mentor her and to model lives based on love for Jesus.
After finishing her degree Julie worked in aid and development for five years, focussed on education in the Pacific Islands. She also took an active part in church life. Then Student Life offered her a position as a campus missionary. She prayed about it and it became clear to her that she was being called to full-time ministry.
“I really liked my aid job, so I cried a lot,” she admitted, but she went to work as a campus missionary in Queensland and was ordained at the end of ten years. Currently she is Associate Minister at St John’s, Diamond Creek, with a particular focus on outreach, community engagement and hospitality.
“I don’t want to push people, but to journey with them,” she said. “I’ll see what opportunities arise to disciple and equip them to reach others, using their own particular gifts.”
The anguish of competing calls to ministry and family
Moe Win Tun Kin was born in Myanmar in 1982, the oldest in a family of five. His mother was a Christian but his father, a Buddhist, did not allow his wife to go to church.
“My father was a strong Buddhist and he didn’t like Christianity,” Moe Win said. “He broke the cross and tore the picture of Jesus which was in our house, and put up statues of Buddha, which he asked me to pray in front of every morning.”
Then suddenly, when Moe Win was eight years old, everything changed and his father allowed the boy, who knew nothing about Christianity, to be baptised.
The following year the civil war forced the family to move to a refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border, where they remained for 14 years.
“Life was very hard but the good thing was my father converted to Christianity after one year there, so I was allowed to go to church, and to Sunday class,” Moe Win said. “Year-by-year I became a strong Christian and my father did too.
“As a teenager I was a server in the church in the camp. I used to look up at the priest as he celebrated the Eucharist and felt I wanted to be a priest but I didn’t know how to become one.”
His sense of calling began with an accident.
“I fell into a deep cave and, being badly injured, felt I was going to die. I prayed to God and said that I would l do whatever He wanted if he kept me alive. After I was rescued two hours later, I wanted to keep my promise but I had no idea what God wanted.
“In 2005, I came to Australia with my family. With the big challenges that we faced my family very much relied on me, as I am the oldest son.”
He studied ESL, worked in different labouring jobs and volunteered in community and church work. He also completed a diploma in film at night school.
Testing his vocation for ordained ministry, he did the year of discernment but because of personal and family problems decided ordination was too difficult to consider. However after three years of what he terms “running away”, he remembered his promise to God in the cave, and felt ready to study theology.
Now ordained and ministering to the Karen congregation at St Stephen’s Werribee, Moe Win feels a strong call to the many young Karen who do not attend church. But he is torn by longing for his wife and young son, who remain in Thailand and still, after two years’ struggle, have not been issued with visas by the Australian Government.
“I feel strongly called to minister to my own Karen Anglican people living in Australia. But I ask myself, how can I continue my ministry here without my family beside me? It doesn’t make sense for me to say I must abandon my ministry to join them but if they cannot come that is what I must do. This is the substance of my present personal prayer. I love my church as I love my wife, and I love my wife as I love my church. What can I do when my wife and my church are separated?”
Read about the ordination service on 3 February here.