Staying the course
Tas Walker chats with Margaret Wieland
Margaret Wieland has been a part of the Brisbane ministry that is now Creation Ministries International (CMI) for most of the last 40 years. Since 1996, she has been married to Dr Carl Wieland, one of the pioneers of creation ministry in Australia.
In addition to her work in CMI, Margaret has variously worked as a nurse, farmer, pastoral assistant, coffee shop proprietor, real estate office principal, and property manager—as well as mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Since 2010 she has been the production coordinator for Creation magazine, and now also manages CMI’s graphic art department, which produces designs and layout for its publications in several countries.
Doing this interview was fascinating, in that I found out so much more about Margaret, whom I’ve worked with for many years. Margaret committed her life to Christ at the age of 13, at a Brisbane evangelical church. She says:
I can remember the serious impact it made on my life; also the warm reception from Mum, and the derision from Dad.
Her childhood was not a happy one. Sunday school and church were, like school itself, “places to escape from the chaos at home”. She explains:
Mum did her best to hold the family together, but Dad struggled with what today would be called PTSD, and with alcoholism. Both of these issues afflicted so many returned WW2 servicemen and their families.
Margaret’s mother made sure the children participated in church activities. And even though the home situation gave her mum few outlets for fellowship, she communicated regularly with missionaries overseas, until her death at only 47. “In my mother”, Margaret says, “I saw faith practised daily. In my early teens, I even entertained the idea of being a missionary in China.”
Margaret indicated that her church’s solid biblical teaching was a great foundation for her later walk:
Our church made no bones about the fact that the Bible was the Word of God, to be believed from the very first verse to the very last. Evolutionary teaching was not as entrenched as it is today, and for many, biblical creation was simply a given.
But at the same time, those with serious questions about the rising challenge of evolutionary thinking had very few plausible answers available to them. It was in response to this need that the creation movement in countries like the US and Australia developed.
Margaret left school at 14, as many young people did in those post-war years, to help support the family. She then trained and worked as a nurse, again with a view to mission work. But within a few years she had married a young farmer (Gilbert Buchanan) from her church, and they set out together to build a family and a farm business.
Their first child, Debbie (pictured at right) was just 20 months old when they found out she had meningitis triggered by a life-threatening malignancy of the upper spine. Debbie survived, but complications from the treatment left her seriously handicapped—unable to read or write, and for some time it was thought she would never be able to speak or walk, either. Margaret says:
Deb’s condition improved slowly, and while not completely, in some respects it was miraculous, and for that I will be eternally grateful. And that was not because our faith was strong. At the time we just couldn’t seem to find a loving and caring God, no matter how helpful and supportive our families and church friends were.
Then in 1975, tragedy struck again.
My fit, non-smoking, non-drinking husband Gil died instantly from a heart attack at the age of 32 on a squash court. It was a staggering, horrific blow.
Margaret said that while it was sudden, there had been warnings. A few weeks prior, he had had a couple of mild ‘turns’ that baffled the doctors.
Today, these ‘warnings’ would likely have led to immediate intervention, even open-heart surgery. Back then, heart disease was much more of a guessing game.
During that time of Gil’s puzzling symptoms, Margaret had an unusual dream, that she was attending his funeral. She says:
I woke up crying; later that same day I raised my fears with him and suggested we needed to straighten out our relationship with God. I even used the words, “What if this thing you’ve got is going to kill you?”
His response was an angry denial on both counts. Just a few short weeks later, Margaret, left to raise their three children alone, had a devastating reason to remember her question.
My Christian walk went downhill even more. But about six months later, the joy of my relationship with my heavenly Father returned, and the children and I went back to church, with Christ at the centre of our household.
Margaret then spent three years at a Bible College which had sound teaching in all areas, including creation. She recalls this as a great experience. During that time, she attended evening classes to upgrade her education to allow part-time university study.
A major turning point
One of her first university subjects was World Religions. She was assigned to present to a tutorial class on a topic of her choice, which was ‘Mormonism vs the Bible’. She was unprepared for the hostile reception from secular academia.
I did my homework, understood the differences well, but finished up being made a spectacle of in front of the group by an atheistic lecturer. He enjoyed ridiculing everything he could about my assertion that no other world religion—let alone the Book of Mormon—can really stand when held up to the mirror of the Word of God. It could have been a demoralizing experience. It had the reverse effect on me, it galvanized me into action.
Margaret realized that such secular attacks were squarely based on rejecting the Bible’s creation foundation. She had come to know of a small Brisbane-based creation ministry, so she contacted one of the leaders requesting an interview. She soon found herself as their newest employee:
I told them I really needed to join in the battle to promote the Bible and especially the first eleven chapters. That was now more important than finishing uni. I didn’t much care what role I played, only that I wanted to devote myself to the cause of God and Truth.
An exciting journey
Some 40 years later, apart from a few years hiatus in the 1990s, Margaret is still at CMI. In that time, in addition to the office’s various name changes, Margaret has seen CMI’s tremendous expansion—from only an Australian office to having sister ministries in six other countries, a magazine going to over 100 countries, a world-class dynamic website, and more. And she has witnessed many advances in the substance and presentation of the materials to arm and equip believers and local churches for creation evangelism and apologetics. She says:
It’s wonderful that the ministry has stayed true to its original mandate all this time, while the world around us has changed considerably. The church is not what I remember from my childhood. Sunday schools are rare—it’s harder to attract young parents to church. Unless a pastor sees the relevance of the creation/evolution issue, his flock is not being given the tools to combat the inroads secularism is making into every aspect of Christian life. But it’s tremendous to read the testimonies of those who have been helped, often dramatically, by CMI ministry.
Marg has worked through many different departments of the organization—book room, secretarial, ministry planning, translations coordinator and, since 2010, production coordinator for Creation magazine. In 2018 she was asked to also take on the management of CMI’s graphic arts department.
Her passion and energy have not diminished, despite being at a stage in life when many have retired. Margaret’s resilience and strength in the face of life’s trials have been an inspiration to many. She says:
Yes, there have been times when circumstances made this pilgrim’s progress difficult. But I can say with conviction that, despite “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”,1 I hold firm to my calling, strong in the knowledge that “I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Finally, asked about whether she planned to slow down to do things like travel, for instance, Margaret replied with a smile:
I have travelled a little. But I have no desire to spend my last years visiting places I would rather see in the new, restored creation [2 Peter 3:13]. Then, having fought the good fight [2 Timothy 4:7–8], no more chasing magazine articles and meeting deadlines—it will be my turn to explore the universe!
References and notes
- From the famous ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Return to text.