Our Story :: Meet Graham & Frieda…
Frieda Erika Baris was born on March 15, 1941, in Chihkiang, Hunan, China, to German parents, Hermann and Anna Bareis, serving with the Liebenzell Mission.
Eight months later, in Brisbane, Australia on November 28, 1941, Graham Martyn Roberts appeared on the scene, the second son to Henry and Eileen Roberts, and a younger brother to David.
In 1947, after serving as missionaries for 15 years in China through the traumas of the Second World War, the Bareis family (mother, father with children Elsbeth, Frieda, Ingrid and Gary) left China for a year’s furlough at the USA Liebenzell Mission headquarters in Schooleys Mt., NJ.
However, when China was overrun by Mao-Tsetung and his communist army in the late 1940s, all Christian missionaries were forced to leave China, which also meant the Bareis family were not able to return.
This necessitated a major change and direction of life for the Bareis family. After three years on the Liebenzell Mission farm in NJ, learning English and new skills, for example, how to drive a car, the Bareis family moved to the Midwest of the USA where Frieda’s father, the Rev. John Hermann Baris, pastored Congregational Churches with both German and English congregations, first in Bayard, Nebraska, then in Bowdle, South Dakota and finally in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
In 1953, together with her parents and siblings, Frieda became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. At this time the family changed their German surname from Bareis to Baris to avoid the frequent mispronunciation of the German name. Dad Baris’ frequently explained that “Baris rhymes with Paris.”
Following her graduation from high school in 1959, Frieda enrolled in a Christian College (Northwestern College in Minneapolis) and pursued a major in Missions and a minor in Music, graduating with her BA magna cum laude, in May 1963.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in Brisbane, Australia, God had been at work in Graham’s life during his teenage years, using evangelists, Bible teachers and missionaries from the States and other parts of the world to stir within his heart a strong desire to study at one of the well-known Christian colleges in the United States. After completing his high school studies at the Brisbane Boys’ College in 1959, he then trained at the Queensland Teachers’ College graduating with a Teaching Certificate in December 1960. The following year he returned to his former primary school, Ironsides State School in St. Lucia, Brisbane to become a Grade 3 teacher. However, his teaching career ended eight months later when in August 1961, he left Australia to become a student at Northwestern College, Minneapolis, USA.
Graham wondered at the time why God had not opened the door to study at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. In fact, he had firmly believed that God would open the door for him to study at this outstanding and widely-respected Christian college. The answer to this question came during those first months at Northwestern College through God’s bringing Frieda into his life. Very early in their relationship, God confirmed to them that He had a special plan for their lives together. They were engaged the following February, 1962.
However, the following month Graham received the long-awaited letter of acceptance from Wheaton College. He began his studies at Wheaton College as a History major in the fall of 1962, and the following year on June 15, 1963 Graham and Frieda were joined together in marriage in Sheboygan, Wisconsin at Frieda’s father’s church, the Sheboygan Congregational Church. While Frieda worked in Wheaton’s Christian Service Dept., Graham continued his Wheaton studies, graduating in June 1964.
After graduation, they moved to South Hamilton, Massachusetts where Graham enrolled as a M.Div. student at Gordon-Conwell Theological School (then known as Gordon Divinity School). During that summer
(July/August 1964), Graham and Frieda joined Operation Mobilization’s European Summer Campaign and were assigned to lead an OM team reaching out among the villages of Tyrol, W. Austria.At the end of that six-week summer campaign, they connected for the first time with Frieda’s German relatives. What a wonderful visit they had with Frieda’s kind and loving family in the Black Forest and near Stuttgart.
Following their OM experience, Graham began his 3 year course of Master of Divinity studies, graduating in May 1967. During those years, Graham also served as assistant to the pastor and as leader of the senior high school youth ministries at Grace Chapel, Lexington, Massachusetts.
In Graham’s final year of theological studies, God blessed them both with their first child, a beautiful daughter named Alison Ruth, born in August 1966 in Beverly, Massachusetts.
During Graham’s six years of studies in the States, God was stirring his heart towards missionary service. Even before meeting Graham, Frieda was already making plans to become a missionary in Asia. The Spirit’s work in Graham’s heart reached a climax when in November 1965 during the final service of Grace Chapel’s Annual Missionary Conference, Graham heard and responded to God’s call to serve as a missionary. The next day he and Frieda began exploring opportunities with different mission agencies!
Through the sensitive and godly counsel of Mr. Arthur Matthews, OMF International’s USA Personnel Director, God linked Graham and Frieda’s hearts with the OMF International family. After completing their candidate course in Philadelphia in June 1967, they were formally accepted for missionary service in East Asia.
Another important event that took place in their lives before leaving the States was Graham’s ordination to the Christian ministry in January 1967 at Grace Chapel. Then in September that year, he was officially accepted as a minister of the Baptist Union of Queensland (Australia).
Before heading to OMF International’s Language & Orientation Course in Singapore, Graham, Frieda and Alison spent four months visiting their Australian family and friends. Finally, in November 1967 they set sail on the MV “Australasia” bound for their new life as Christian missionaries.
There in Singapore they began their Indonesian language studies, and also welcomed with much joy a son into their family, David Martyn, in May 1968, born in the “Water Buffalo Stable Hospital” (“Rumah Sakit Kandang Kerbau”)!
Their initial four months in Singapore were extended to over 12 months as they waited for the Indonesian visas. Finally, just before Christmas 1968 Graham and Frieda with Alison and David flew to Jakarta to begin their missionary service in Indonesia – initially training lay leaders of the Toraja Protestant Church (Gereja Toraja)
in the Makale Region of South Sulawesi,later in the Luwu Region. During these years, they had the further joy of welcoming another child, Scott Nathan, born in their Makale home in November 1970.
From training elders and other lay leaders, God then led Graham and Frieda into the ministry of training future pastors. Their involvement in theological education began at the Theological Seminary of EastIndonesia inMakassar, South Sulawesi, in 1975-76. Then after completing his M.Th. (Practical Studies/Missions) at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,Frieda and Graham moved to East Java where they taught at the Indonesian Bible Institute in Batu-Malang 1977-1980, one of the ministry arms of the Indonesian Missionary Fellowship.
Again the Lord blessed them with another child, Elizabeth Anne, born at the Baptist Hospital in Kediri, E. Java, in February 1979. During that year, God was again working in Graham’s heart, laying a burden for pastoral ministry in a local church upon his heart. Eventually this led to Graham’s acceptance of a call to serve as pastor of Hornsby Baptist Church in Sydney, Australia.
So in December 1980 the Roberts family moved home to Australia. This change of direction in ministry also necessitated a move for Alison and David from Faith Academy in Manila, the Philippines, and for Scott from OMF International’s Chefoo School in the Cameron Highlands, W. Malaysia.
Graham served the Hornsby Baptist Church from February 1981 to May 1983, and then from 1983-1988 he led and pastored a new, emerging and vibrant church community, the Community Church in Normanhurst, later to become Community Church Hornsby.
During five enriching years serving the Community Church, Graham and Frieda also continued praying for God’s work around the globe. Their missionary vision never faded, so it was no surprise to the Community Church family when in 1987,God called their pastor and his wife back into international missionary work. This time He guided them into membership with Operation Mobilisation, initially serving for 3½ years asOM statedirectorsin NSW and ACT (1988-1991), followed by nine years inCentral Europe (1991-2000),where they directed OM’s Missionary Training School (MTS) in the Czech Republic. During these exciting years, God gave them and their staff the privilege to equip and train almost 400 new workers for Christian service in former communist Eastern European countries.
While Alison, David and Scott pursued their different courses of studies in Australia, Elizabeth joined her parents for five of those nine years, living in Vienna where she attended the Vienna Christian School from where she graduated in May 1996.
The next chapter in Graham and Frieda’s international ministries began in August 2000 when they returned to Australia. From 2001-2003 they served in pastoral care and training ministries with OM Australia, and since April 2003, they have been serving the Lord together under the ministry name of Equip & Encourage International.
Their aim is simply to make themselves available to God and His people to strengthen their faith both in Australia and overseas. Since 2003, God has opened the door for them to visit and minister to God’s people such as Indonesia, India, Russia, Albania and America.
However, most of their ministries of equipping and encouraging God’s people takes place from their home in Woy Woy, NSW – via writing emails, Facebook posts, text messages and making phone and Skype calls. Living locally … serving globally.
Since 2002, God has been laying a burden on Graham’s heart to give his time to writing projects. Initially he wrote his book – with Frieda’s expert editorial skills – “United in Marriage by ONE Lord: God’s Wisdom on Intermarriage in a Multifaith World.” In more recent years, he has been writing a book for believers who are married to a person from a different culture. And now he and Frieda are working on recording their life’s story (HIS story!). He also hopes to publish in booklet / eBook format some of his Facebook devotional messages.
Aside from their writing and correspondence ministries, Graham is occasionally invited to preach in NSW churches. In 2014 Graham and Frieda served the Broken Hill Baptist Church for two months. Then in September and October this year (2016), they are looking forward to being God’s servants among the Albury Baptist Church family.
Family relationships are another most important part of Graham and Frieda’s busy lives. They are delighted to live relatively close to their children Alison, David and Elizabeth – and their families. Their son Scott lives with his wife and three sons in California. Happily, they are able to visit their USA family once every couple of years.
God has given Graham and Frieda ten grandchildren for whom they pray every day – and whom they love to visit.
Some people Graham and Frieda’s age busy themselves as best they can during their retirement years. Graham and Frieda might be in the pensioner category as far as government records are concerned. They see things differently because they know themselves primarily as citizens of God’s eternal kingdom.
As long as the King gives them work to do “In His Majesty’s Service,” they will continue to give themselves to Him, trusting in His Spirit to guide, empower and enable for each ministry.
Simply put, their heart’s desire is to “be about the Father’s business” – whenever, wherever and whatever He gives them to do.
But Graham and Frieda understand that “the Father’s business” is far more than just “doing” – busyness. Their greater longing is to know God the Father, Jesus His Son and the Holy Spirit with ever-deepening intimacy – and so to radiate more of God’s beauty and express more of His life-giving power wherever God places them as His much-loved people.