August Carl Bertelsmeier of River View, Maryborough, was born on the 10th of May, 1914, at Temora, New South Wales. He was both baptised and confirmed in the Lutheran Church in Temora by Pastor J Materne. Augie, as he was called by everyone, was a firm believer in his Lord and Saviour, so it was […]
August Carl Bertelsmeier of River View, Maryborough, was born on the 10th of May, 1914, at Temora, New South Wales. He was both baptised and confirmed in the Lutheran Church in Temora by Pastor J Materne.
Augie, as he was called by everyone, was a firm believer in his Lord and Saviour, so it was that at the age of 22 years he went into service with the New Guinea Mission. These years of labour were not easy. The second World War broke out while he was there, and he, along with other missionaries, Lutheran and Catholic, and also a mixed-race people, were made prisoners of War, the Japanese being their captors. He was a prisoner of war for one and a half years.
The Japanese moved the prisoners around from time to time. The so-journeyings included Karkar Island and Manus Island. While in the Madang area, he was chained to a tree for two weeks and was saved by the little water he was able to catch in his tobacco tin. Other times, if the group was long enough in one place a garden was planted, only to be plundered by their captors. Bashings with riffle butts were numerous, as were other atrocities. During this period there were bright times. When officers of the enemy were Christians, they were taken care of in a Christ-like way.
The Japanese decided to take the prisoners to Hollandia, today known as Djajapura. They were put into the ship Dorish Maru, a small Japanese coastal freighter. While on this ship the group of 120 experienced the horror of being straffed by U.S. bombers, 12 in number, each flying over the ship in individual succession. The attack lasted only 10 or 15 minutes, but there were 60 missionaries left dead after it was over. The survivors were taken care of by Dr Braun, who was one of their number, and a veteran missionary of the Lutheran Mission. He operated under unbelievable conditions and was instrumental in helping to save many lives. The war ended and Augie came back to Australia, and after a time his health was restored.
On the 10th of February 1947, he and Sophie Agnes Jorgensen were married by Pastor Rudolf in Albury. The couple were going to live in New Guinea, as Augie was back in service with the Lutheran Mission. As was Mission policy, things were organised for their staff members, so Augie and Sophie were to have their honeymoon on a mission ship which was going to New Guinea from Australia. Augie was the Engineer. (Sophie did not accompany Augie on the trip, but she sailed from Brisbane three days after Augie’s ship had left port, travelling on the Malaita.)
The ship which Augie sailed on was known as the E.M.R., later named Totol. It was a ship which was not in the best of conditions sea-worthy wise, so it limped up the coast of Queensland, calling into this port and that port for repairs. On the way to Cairns the engine finally gave out and a new one had to be installed. Ironically their cargo included a big quantity of marmalade jam, so when this ship finally reached its destination the mission personnel were assured of marmalade jam for quite a time!
When the good ship E.M.R. and her crew got on their way again, they were overcome by a violent storm in the Coral Sea. After the storm had passed, one of the crew asked at what angle the ship had to be before it capsised, and it was found to have passed this angle quite a number of times during the storm. They also had been blown off course, and it was 10 weeks before Sophie had any communication with her husband. The ship the E.M.R., by the grace of God, made port with its crew and cargo. Needless to say, it did not serve in the service of the mission for long. Augie and Sophie on the other hand served for 10 years. Their four children were all born in New Guinea.
In New Guinea after the war, the Lutheran mission, took over the Buangi Hospital at Finschhafen from the U.S. army. Augie was the Caretaker. This was 1946. From 1947 – 51 he rebuilt the Nagada Plantation. He also was involved with the rebuilding of the Ulap Mission Station working at Gatop in 1952 and from 1953 to 1956 he worked on the Kurum plantation on Karkar Island.
In 1957 the family left New Guinea and resided for 3 years in Alberton, Queensland, in Wagga Wagga, NSW for 12 years and then Maryborough.
Augie died in April, 1982.
If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone LCA International Mission on (08) 8267 7300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to https://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/
Read more stories about volunteering at www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/