The Emmaus Correspondence School is a ministry that was started in Canada in 1942 by Mr Robert E. Harlow to enable people to learn the basics of the Christian faith. In 1946 the Correspondence School commenced in Chicago, USA. In 1949 a missionary in the Philippines began using the courses as follow-up to a Gospel broadcast. The response was immediate and many wanted to study the Bible. Other missionaries became interested in the possibilities of reaching those in remote areas with Bible study by mail. This launched the use of Emmaus courses overseas. From these small beginnings the Emmaus Correspondence School has grown so that it now has over 1200 distribution centres in over 100 countries of the world, in more than 80 languages, and today distributes over 1.3 million courses each year.
The work commenced in Queensland,Australia in 1951 under the leadership of Mr Ian Irvine who used the courses for follow-up to contacts from the Sacred Half Hour radio programme. From the beginning the Correspondence School was an outstanding success. Growth was maintained over the years and saw Mr Lance Foley involved in the work during the 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Mr Noel & Mrs Eleanor Sheen took up the reins in 1987. It was at this time that Noel made an approach to senior people in the Queensland Department of Corrective Services who agreed to allow the courses to be used in every Queensland jail. Courses were channelled through the Education Officer in each Centre, ensuring official recognition by the Department. Initially all courses distributed were the result of Noel’s personal visits and he, with his wife Eleanor, marked the large number of courses that continued to expand over the next 15 years. The work grew as a result of these visits along with the course promotion being augmented by the Prison Chaplains themselves. In September 2012, after suffering a period of ill health as a result of cancer, Noel was promoted to Glory to receive his “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
Mr John & Mrs Ethel Orr entered the Emmaus Ministry in 2001 and began marking and processing courses. Over the following years they saw a steady expansion of the work. They also saw the need to develop the ministry. When they first began, the main avenue of obtaining students in the community was by word of mouth, and within the prison system, was through the Prison Chaplains. Over the years, that continued, but they saw the need to develop the ministry in other ways. They felt the need to produce promotional brochures and reply paid cards which could be made available by the chaplains for passing on to any potential student within the Correctional Centres. As well, brochures to promote the courses into the community were produced, along with a brochure to promote the Prison Ministry. A full colour course catalogue containing over 120 courses was also produced and this website was established with the kind help of volunteers. The other area of development was the Emmaus Bible Gems Calendar ministry. This first originated in New Zealand and, following the approval in 2004 by the Director General of Corrective Services, the calendar ministry has grown over the years to become the major tool for obtaining students each year. In more recent years, they saw the expansion of the ministry into the Northern Territory, particularly with the provision of the Emmaus Bible Gems Calendar and the correspondence courses. John & Ethel retired from full-time involvement in the ministry at the end of 2016 but continue to help out were and when needed.
In 2016, Mr Bryson Thomas entered the ministry as Queensland Registrar and, along with his wife Ruth, became involved in the marking, processing and despatching of courses undertaken by those who had gone before. Bryson and Ruth have been in active and full-time Christian ministry since 2004, both in a local church capacity, and as the Australian Representatives with an International church planting ministry. They are excited to enter this next phase of ministry, and value the partnerships of God’s people as they seek to continue a good work that is bringing much fruit to God’s Glory.