Joyce Irene Trudinger’s life was exceptional.
Being born of Australian missionary parents in 1924 in North Korea and beginning boarding school at age seven in Chefoo, Northern China, was different enough for an Australian child.
However when you add in the trips home on holidays that included, on one occasion, being captured by pirates who thought their boat was carrying gold, or on another being frozen in Chefoo harbour, it is clear that training to adapt and cope with unusual challenges began at an early age.
When Japan launched the ‘China incident’ in 1937, schooling at Chefoo was impossible so Joyce was home-taught until World War II intervened. That saw the family make a difficult escape to South Australia via Japan, Hong Kong, and Rabaul – a very turbulent time. Here, she finished secondary school and entered teacher’s college
After graduating, Joyce taught at Penola and lived a full social life that included things like Sunday school teaching.
She enjoyed a variety of other community activities such as youth leadership and some of these, too, were exceptional. For example on one occasion Joyce rode her bike from Mt Gambier to Geelong, to attend the PFA Summer Conference.
On hearing a call to missionary work, Joyce enrolled at Rolland House, Melbourne in 1947 and completed deaconess training after which she was assigned to a position in the New Hebrides (now called Vanuatu).
This meant more study. This time with the Wycliffe Summer Institute of Linguistics, after which Joyce was ‘set apart as a deaconess’ at Tusmore, South Australia, in 1952. Back in Victoria’s Fairfield Hospital, she undertook a medical course for non-medical missionaries, then off to New Hebrides.
Here Joyce was teaching teachers, as there was no formal New Hebridean teacher training; setting up curricula for local district schools, and Onesua Presbyterian High School. Eventually she and deaconess Meg Cranstoun moved to Aulua and opened a school. Joyce had to survey the land and supervise the building process before teaching there. Students made their own desks under her supervision, and she wrote their textbooks.
During her eight years at Aulua, a submarine volcano off the neighbouring island of Epi blew up, leaving feet-thick pumice in the surrounding sea. Cyclones and earthquakes often challenged them.
Whilst establishing the school she was also responsible for preparing students for entrance exams to Tangoa Ministry Training Institute, and was also learning the Aulua language herself.
Her ongoing influence was enormous, as she taught many future leaders of the country, including the late Ps Reuben Makikon who became the chairman of the Pacific Council of Churches. Others became leaders of the country’s independence movement.
Academically gifted but practical too, she even put temporary fillings in her own teeth, until such time as she could seek professional help.
In 1963 Joyce attended a conference in Fiji, looking at Christian Education throughout the South Pacific. Representatives attended from Australia, New Zealand, and all the islands concerned. Joyce was then appointed Director of the PICECC (the Pacific Island Christian Education Curriculum Committee), working in close association with well-known UCA figures like Rev John Mavor and David Merret.
Located in Fiji for the next three years, Joyce worked hard on the allotted task.
She then followed up, visiting all the islands throughout, teaching, discussing the programs, and encouraging and training teachers and leaders.
Joyce wrote, printed and published many articles and books, which can be viewed if you Google ‘Joyce Trudinger’.
In 1967 Joyce was a delegate to the World Council of Churches in Nairobi. On return to Fiji, she met up with recently widowed Rev Charles McLeod. They married in 1968 and Joyce became a beloved step-mother to Ailsa, Meg, Ian and Elizabeth.
The work she started became an ecumenical curriculum that was part of the South Pacific Commission.
Island experience prepared Joyce well for her role as minister’s wife. Soon she was in Australian leadership roles; an executive member of South Australia’s Presbyterian Women’s Association (PWA), and then state president.
Not neglecting her personal interests, she undertook art classes refining her already considerable talents. Many of her paintings sold for considerable prices.
Joyce loved people, so she taught RI, did hospital visiting, and gave of herself generously.
Joyce and Charles opened their home to many visitors, including Lisbeth Billy from Vanuatu; a young woman suffering from the disfiguring condition of neurofibromitosis. Lisbeth’s medical treatment took seven months. Caring for her was typical of their way of expressing their Christian love.
In recognition of the work they had done in Vanuatu, Joyce and Charles were each awarded the Vanuatu Medal of Merit in 1998.
What a tragedy then, that this wonderful, Christian woman should be afflicted with dementia. This cruel, insidious disease eventually robbed Joyce of any awareness of who, or where she was. However, whilst she was able, Joyce certainly lived a full and wonderful life.
Compiled by Rev Malcolm Campbell