Hello from the Outback of Australia!
A couple of weeks ago now, our team packed up and cleaned out the place we called home for so long, and squeezed all we might need for the next month and a half into our hiking backpacks. As weird and a little sad as it was to end our lecture phase, I think we were all getting quite excited to step into something new.
We spent our first week in the Outback in a town about a six hour drive inland from the Gold Coast called Moree. The Outback is mainly inhabited by Aboriginal Australians, and in a lot of their communities they face a lot of brokenness. Moree is no exception to that. Although we were told about this prior to leaving, it wasn’t until we actually got to Moree and we saw this brokenness with our own eyes that it really sunk in. Many of the families in this town are broken by abuse of all sorts, addictions to drugs- Crystal Meth or “Ice” is quite common there- and alcohol, violence, gangs... the list could go on.
While we were in Moree, we stayed with a couple named Paul and Erin and their five children. They are wonderful, humble, kind people, and some of the only Christian influences in the town. They welcomed us with open arms and great excitement for our time there. They also cooked us our first home cooked meal we have had in a long while. Out of their house, they run various ministries in order to reach the community, and more specifically the children. They offer tutoring, Sunday school, a snack when they’re hungry, and even a place to stay when they need to. One of the weekly ministries they do is a fruit run. Essentially what it is, is Paul takes a big bucket of fruit and some bread and drives around the town in his van and hands it out to the kids in the community. We had the opportunity to join him while we were there. When Paul would pull up, the kids would run at the van with excitement as soon as they saw him coming. All of them know who he is, and he knows them by name. After each house we’d pass, as soon as the kids began to walk away, Paul would tell us a bit about their story. And after every one, our hearts broke a little bit more. He would tell us things that I could not even imagine because things like that shouldn’t be happening to people, let alone little kids. It wasn’t uncommon to hear that they are abused, or one of their parents committed suicide or are heavily addicted to drugs.
While we were in Moree, we had the opportunity to see the fruit of something Paul and Erin had been working at for thirty years now. You see, the Aboriginal people are very relational and really value relationship, although they are pretty hesitant towards white people because of events that have happened in the past. For the past thirty years, Paul and Erin have been working at creating relationships with certain people in quite frankly the roughest part of the entire town. On a Wednesday evening while we were there, we set up church in a small run down field right next to some of the houses in this community. As Paul and his daughter began playing some songs, the people began to come. Our team was doing our best to help wherever we could, some were cooking up some snags and kangaroo meat to serve for dinner, others were engaging with the people from the community who came for church there. Jake, Emma, and Willy had a chance to share what God has done in their lives in order to maybe bring some hope in what the world would view as hopeless situations. It was all really beautiful. Paul could not believe that there wasn’t any kind of fights or yelling at each other. He also mentioned that it was the first time he’d seen this man, who he had known for the past thirty years, smile. We all felt really blessed to be able to share this experience with them. Erin later let us know a few of the Aboriginal women who were there, joined her and Paul for church on the following Sunday for the first time ever, and they asked them to come and do church in this community every two weeks! God is moving in amazing ways in this town.
After our time in Moree, we hopped in the van and drove another five hours inland to an even smaller town called Brewarrina. There we stayed with an Aboriginal man named Bradley. Our time in Brewarrina was a little bit more relaxed than our time in Moree, and we spent a lot of time just hanging out with Bradley and with friends that came over to his house. A few of us learnt how to play a pretty good game of pool, others jammed on his electric guitar, and at least all of us played a card game or two. Our time in the Outback, Brewarrina especially, is all about building relationships. YWAM Gold Coast has been sending teams to the Outback for the past 6ish years, with the goal of just continuing to build on that relationship. Our team going there was just a piece of the puzzle in the big picture of all that’s been done and is going to take place.
On one of our first nights there, our team went out to a rehab centre for men who were struggling with addictions. Half of our team rocked it and cooked up some steaks and tacos to serve for dinner, and the other half spent some time hanging out with these guys there, many of them not much older than us. I, Sarah, pulled out my guitar and before I even got set up, these guys and some of the other girls pulled chairs up and we sat in a circle as I played a few songs. I offered the guitar out if anyone wanted to play and after a quick pause, one of them shyly accepted. Before we knew it, the guitar got passed left and right around the circle and we quickly learned how talented a few of these fellows were. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw how each time they’d play a song they were brought a little bit more to life. The conversations continued as we ate dinner with them. Everyone on our team left feeling so thankful for our time spent there.
I think you could say we have all experienced a bit more of the Australian culture. We’ve seen more kangaroos than we can count, tons of emus, and many of us even held a python (some with more fear in their eyes than others). We are so thankful for this eye-opening experience, and are trusting in the fact that God is going to keep doing rad things in the outback.