On 1 December 1958 a man and his wife were baptised in the Philippines. This event set in train further events which ultimately led to a motion being passed at the Biennial Fraternal Gathering and Conference in Brisbane on May 1962 to formally recognise the establishment of the Australasian Christadelphian Bible Mission. This was reported in issue no. 17 of The Bible Missionary (December 1962).
The baptisms in the Philippines came about because an American sister who worked in the US embassy in the Philippines from 1955-1957 felt motivated to bring with her some preaching literature to use as opportunities occurred. In the providence of God, this led over time to the baptism of Pedro Jimeno, formerly a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, and his wife. That is a story in itself, especially as it came about after a lengthy exchange of correspondence with Sister Evelyn Banta in the USA. Descendants of brother Pedro are now vital members of the more than 800 brethren and sisters in that country.
In 1958 there was just the UK CBM and they sought out brethren in Australia to visit the Philippines, and so in 1960 brethren Ron Herman and GA Davis of Queensland travelled (by ship) to the Philippines. At the same time it was recognised that we in Australia needed a mission organisation. New Zealand brethren thinking similarly, and in May 1959 a Mission Committee was set up there, with their first countries of interest in this part of the globe being Fiji and Tonga.
The CBM was encouraging these developments, as they had initiated advertising in South East Asia and the Pacific Islands and during 1957 replies had started to flow in. Initially the ACBM operated out of Sydney and Melbourne, with an Executive Committee in Sydney. Australia being such a large country, it very soon became desirable to develop a mission organisation in the other five states of the country, as well as in New Zealand, for the ‘A’ in ACBM stands for ‘Australasian’.
As our organisation grew it was possible to scatter the seed and visit more countries. It was a shock to realise that our ‘parish’ included half the population of the world. This was because it included the world’s two most populous countries, China and India. This year the world’s population will pass 7 billion!
Good response was coming from Fiji and so two brethren first visited there in May 1963 and the first baptism took place later that year; today there are nearly 60 brethren and sisters there.
The world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, looked to be a difficult challenge! It was often individual initiative that led to the work moving forward – with the Lord’s guiding hand behind the scenes. Brother Duncan McCallum of Melbourne was based in Indonesia for work in 1967 and a work colleague was willing to help him place advertisements. The first baptism occured in 1970 when Brother Arthur Clarke, the ACBM Secretary at the time, visited the country; but 21 years were to elapse before the authorities were willing to recognize us as an individual church.
Individual initiative again led to the work starting in India when brother Tim Galbraith took the opportunity to attend an employment-related convention in 1976. This led to a five-month visit in 1978, during which, among his many travels, he met Sarah, who came to Australia and was baptised. They were married in February 1979 and three months later they moved back to India. A home-based team was established in Melbourne to support this initiative and, in the 32 years since then, more than 2,000 baptisms have occured. If that sounds wonderful, pause and consider that this is just one baptism for every 600,000 people! India has 50% more people than the whole of Africa.
The ACBM has attempted to witness in over 30 countries and by God’s grace baptisms have occurred in 24 of them. It has been a remarkable 50 years and, quite apart from anything else, the lives of all the labourers who have gone forth have been immeasurably enriched by their experience.
– David Caudery, The Bible Missionary (April, 2011)
The book Into all the World by Stanley Owen, available through the Christadelphian Office, supplies extensive background history related to preaching in many areas of the world.