Australian missionary to receive ACU's Christian Service Award
For immediate release
Abilene Christian University will present one of its highest honors, the Christian Service Award, to Jo Ann Walling Halbert Sunday, Feb. 23, at a noon luncheon in the Teague Special Events Center. Tickets are available for $12 at 674-2687.
The award recognizes Halbert's efforts to grow and encourage churches in Sydney, Australia.
"Jo Ann Halbert has been the epitome of a Christian servant all her life," said Dr. Royce Money, ACU president. "Her love for the Kingdom, her love for her family and the vast network of friends she has accumulated are testimony to that fact."
Halbert, who spends half of her year in the land down under and the other half in the Lone Star State, says she's lucky if she remembers to drive on the correct side of the road.
But, she also says her mission work in Sydney during the past four years has been worth the temporary culture shock of splitting time between continents. At age 69, Halbert has done more mission work in the seventh decade of her life than many do in a lifetime.
"This experience has given my life a depth that I don't think it had before I went," Halbert said. "Teaching in another country and another culture at this point in my life was so unexpected and such amazing blessing. It's like I had lived all my life up to this point to do this work."
Of course spending five to six months each year in Australia was not what she had in mind in 1999 when she was initially asked by missionaries from her church in Southlake to come teach at a women's retreat in Australia.
"I never expected to go back, but God has just opened amazing doors for me," Halbert said.
The small Northwest Church of Christ congregation in Sydney was full of young families but lacking older women to help mentor the younger women, so Halbert willingly stepped into that role.
She now travels to Sydney in February of each year, stays through April, then returns during the summer months as well. She spends her time primarily in relationship building, but she also teaches three women's classes during the week, works with two local congregations, spends time with the staff and occasionally serves in the role of liaison between the missionaries and the church back in the states.
After four years of spending half her year in Sydney, she now considers the people and the culture she's found there to be a second home.
"I've sort of adopted them - or they've adopted me, I'm not sure which," Halbert admits. "But either way, we are connected in spirit; I feel very much at home there."
Halbert's mission efforts are not confined to Australia. While back in the United States, she serves on the board of Missions Resource Network, a group formed to help support missionaries and mission work.
Her involvement in missions in the later part of her life has been a blessing that she hopes others will experience as well.
"What I'd like people to see in what I'm doing is that in the last decades of life God is so full of surprises," she said. "Your life is far from over just because you're in the latter decades. You still have a lot to give, and there are still people who need you all over the world. I didn't realize that my later life could be so full of energy and excitement, and it's all from God."
The Australian mission work has become a family affair lately - seven of her ten grandchildren have accompanied her to Sydney, four have worked as interns with the Northwest church, and her oldest grandson has assisted in the youth ministry every year for the past four years.
If you are a member of the media who would like more information about this release, please contact Wendy Kilmer, university news coordinator.
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