Over a lovely cup of tea and some baked goodies, I recently spent a pleasant Friday morning with Living Waters’ legends of the faith, Pastor Ian and Ivy Dennert, privileged to learn a little of their story. I managed to glean a few tips regarding success in life and ministry, including how to attract the attention of the woman you believe God wants you to marry – but we’ll get to that later.
From an early age Ivy had a twofold desire to be a school teacher or nurse and use her career as an avenue to aid church mission work in the bush – remote locations where it was difficult for pastors to visit regularly and hard to find permanent pastors. Growing up on a farm, at Palmtree, north of Toowoomba, Ivy knew firsthand the benefit of ministers who were willing to travel out of town to small country locations with a passion for the spread of the gospel. Ivy’s extended family were significantly involved in the birth and growth of Pentecostal churches in neighbouring communities. Her mother’s first experience of the Holy Spirit was at a meeting in a local barn and she was soon hosting similar meetings in her own home. Her mother’s experience obviously had an impact on Ivy, who was saved when she was eight years old, then filled with the Holy Spirit aged eleven. In those days, the church recommended waiting until young believers were around sixteen before considering them mature enough to be water baptised. Special consideration was made for Ivy and she was water baptised shortly after being baptised in the Holy Spirit.
“Put your trust in the Lord, for He is able.”
When Ivy felt called to go to bible college she pushed it aside for some time because of doubts about her own capabilities. During this season she worked at the Toowoomba hospital before God challenged her afresh about bible college, reminding her, “Put your trust in the Lord, for He is able.”
Ian also grew up on a farm, near Mirboo North, in Gippsland, Victoria, and happily assumed he also would be a farmer, on his own farm one day. This outlook changed after he was saved in his late teens and, in response to God’s call to ministry Ian was soon heading north to attend Commonwealth Bible College, Brisbane. Interestingly, this was immediately after Ivy had finished studying at the same bible college. She was asked to be an assistant to Pastor Ian Fenn at Mirboo North AOG and was offered accommodation as a boarder in Ian’s mother’s house.
Ian prayed, asking God to send him a woman.
Prior to leaving for bible college, Ian prayed, asking God to send him a woman. Within three weeks, Ivy arrived, and Ian was convinced she was God’s answer to his prayers! Ivy was not so sure. She explains that, as time went on, she received encouraging reports about Ian from friends who were also Ian’s fellow students. I wonder, was it the good reports or could it have been Ian’s attention-grabbing prank of nailing Ivy’s slippers to her bedroom floor at his mother’s house that had the most influence? Ivy’s initial response was to sprinkle Ian’s junket with salt and pepper. Although that isn’t the response he was hoping for, his charm must have grown on Ivy, as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on December 14th, 2018.
During their married life, Ian and Ivy have been a faithful, effective ministry team. The gospel cause has taken them across the country, along with their growing family and, although they’ve never been overseas, both are more than content with that fact. They initially pastored the church in Newborough, Gippsland and were also involved in ministry in the Moe and Morwell area.
…the roof was almost on, but they didn’t have the money.
Ian and Ivy were praying desperately for breakthrough and provision…
After two years they headed to Queensland, to Goombungee and Oakey, Ivy’s neighbourhood as a child. It was during their seven years there that God told them that they should ask a local businessman to sell them a block of land on which to build a church. They were blessed to be given first pick of the blocks and chose the corner one, with best visibility. It was exciting to see their plans coming to fruition, believing that God would provide the finances necessary for completion of the church building. The contract stated that the second half of the funds were payable when the roof went on. Time progressed, and they could see from their kitchen window that the roof was almost on, but they didn’t have the money. Ian and Ivy were praying desperately for breakthrough and provision, so that they could complete what they felt God had called them to do. It was right at this time that a cassette arrived in the mail from Sister Rix, which included the testimony of a church in the United Sates who received miraculous provision for their own needs. This was the answer and encouragement Ian and Ivy were waiting for. They called an emergency meeting of church members and played Sister Rix’s testimony. By faith, people pledged their finances and the required total ended up being met exactly!
During three years in Port Augusta Ian and Ivy saw wonderful growth, including a flourishing after-school program and thirty-five people saved in one year. Their next move was to the Kyneton/Castlemaine area where the church grew from 17-85 people in three years. During their final eighteen months, Ian had opportunity to work with drug addicts, developing a passion to see them break free of addiction. God was preparing him for their next relocation…
So what brought the Dennert family to Kyabram? It was late 1987 and Ian was appointed as one of the first counsellors at Teen Challenge’s newly opened rehabilitation facility at Kyabram. Ivy joined him with their three youngest children in early 1988. Ian later became involved in Pastoral Care at Living Waters, among other things.
“What do you want me to do?” she asked God.
Ivy found this relocation a fresh challenge, as she was no longer involved in ministry beside Ian, as she had been previously. “What do you want me to do?” she asked God. Of course, God found plenty for her to do! Ivy has been involved in women’s ministry leadership and Aglow ministry, not just locally but also ministering to people from different locations such as Bendigo and Phillip Island. Alongside Ian she has been involved in relief ministry at various churches, including twelve months at Rochester and at Kilmore and also homegroup leadership at Nathalia, Stanhope and Rushworth.
“If you feel the Lord calling you to bible college, try and get out of it.”
“Learn to know God’s voice and to obey Him.”
I asked Ian and Ivy for their advice for people feeling called to full-time ministry. “If you feel the Lord calling you to bible college, try and get out of it,” responded Ian without hesitation. In other words, if God is genuinely calling you, you won’t be able to just turn your back and forget it and do something else with your life. “Learn to Know God’s voice and to obey Him,” were Ivy’s words of wisdom.
His call was not about what Ian could or couldn’t achieve…but what God could do in Ian.
I also asked Ian and Ivy to look back and think what advice they would give their younger self. Ian responded that he has no regrets and wouldn’t do life differently. Ivy’s tried and tested advice was, “Stay close to God and obey His voice.” She explained that she has always been fearful of going outside of God’s will. Seeking confirmation of His will has been vital in her Christian life. As an example, Ivy remembers her doubts when Ian felt God calling them to pastor in Goombungee. This motivated her to seek God for her own assurance and He was faithful to remind her that His call was not about what Ian could or couldn’t achieve in a church filled with Ivy’s relatives, but what God could do in Ian.
“Keep a Christlike attitude.”
“Submit to God and each other, admit wrong, and forgive and make up.”
Ian and Ivy are parents to five children, grandparents of nine and great grandparents to three little ones so far. When asked to sum up parenting in three words, Ian advised, “Keep a Christlike attitude” and Ivy prescribed, “Love, discipline and example.” And their marriage advice? Ian reiterated the importance that marriage partners must, “Keep a Christlike attitude,” while Ivy had three keys – Submit to God and each other, admit wrong, and forgive & make up.
“Exciting – lots of opportunities to share God’s love with many – never a dull moment.”
Despite their initial intention to only stay in Kyabram until their children finished their schooling, Ian and Ivy have remained here, Ian even claiming it to be his favourite place in Australia. He appreciates the togetherness found in Living Waters church. Ivy, although obviously quite fond of our town and Living Waters church family, had no trouble suggesting Hervey Bay or somewhere similar on the coast as her favourite location. She summed up their life’s journey so far as being, “Exciting – lots of opportunities to share God’s love with many – never a dull moment.”