It occurred to me recently that there are so many people in our very own communities who are full of confusion and questions about life and are needing people to sit with them one on one and talk through things, ask their questions, be reassured, guided, loved for who they are. We can’t stop reaching out!
If you are a Christian who has even just a little bit of Bible knowledge, there are people out there in your neighbourhood who you can get alongside and encourage and teach what you know. Don’t think that you don’t have something to offer. Sometimes we assume that people know what we have known for years, basic Bible stories (eg; Creation, Noah & the flood, Joseph, Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, etc.). I have found when doing Bible study with women in this area that we might be talking through some basic stories and they don’t know them, or they have them mixed up with the only knowledge of them being from snippets of movies they have seen (like “The Prince of Egypt”). Another thing many people don’t know, even though they are open to learning more about God, is how to look passages up in the Bible. They need someone patiently sitting along side them to show them how to navigate through the most important book in the world, the Holy Bible.
Do you have people in your area who you could reach out to? Pray that the Lord would open your eyes to the searching ones and give you opportunities to get to know them. And please, don’t think that you have to be a pastor or a trained Christian worker to do any good. God wants to use His ordinary, humble children relying on His Holy Spirit to just be one step ahead of someone who is searching.
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:38
“So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” Colossians 2:10
“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13
Yesterday we had a Zoom call with a supporting church in Victoria. They asked us to tell them some of our unexpected positives and challenges during the COVID-19 restrictions. The Kimberley has been shut off from the rest of Western Australia and (because of the vulnerable Aboriginal communities) each of the Shires within the Kimberley have been closed. It has been both a blessing and a challenge in many ways because it has meant that the Kimberley has remained relatively COVID-19 free (apart from 17 cases which were contained and now recovered). It has been quiet, but peaceful with reduced crime and most people going about their business, even though some things are put on hold, such as the playgroup Linda usually attends and our home church meetings. Recently with the number of people allowed to meet going from 2 to 10, our home church group has started to meet outside, on our local jetty. Since we are a small group, this is workable for us (last Sunday we had just 9 of us).
Greg has been allowed to continue his role at the Mowanjum Community Resource Centre as tech/managing support twice/week. This has been a privilege because the community is locked down to outsiders (except for essential workers).
Community lockdown has meant that Linda is currently not able to visit Mowanjum for ladies Bible study or art group. In the interim I (Linda) have started an online Bible study group for women from all over the Kimberley. Twenty three ladies have joined the group, but not all have engaged. Even so it has been an encouraging time with some from afar joining in most weekdays and learning (some for the first time) about the Bible. It has been great to see some with more Christian experience encouraging those who are just starting to learn. Now that term 2 has started quite a few ladies from the group are back at work and are not free during the daytime to join. Being flexible and available for the times when people are open and free seems to be key.
This morning when I woke up, I did not feel great. It was only after my first sip of tea that the doorbell rang. It happened to be a friend from the other side of the Kimberley who was dropping in at 7.30am. Because she is not in our town often, and this is the first time she has come to visit, I couldn’t really say ‘Sorry, can you please come back at a more convenient time’. So I invited her in and made her a cup of coffee, (in my pre-woken up, pre-showered & pre-caffeine state). We sat and talked for the next 2 1/2 hours about all sorts of things, including how her life & family are going, the challenges, native title claims, her family’s ancestry, looking at our big map of the Kimberley on the wall and discussing which tribe comes from which area. I learned some more snippets of language, such as the Jaru name for some bush nuts (Budarrgi – not sure of spelling) we have on our coffee table (given to us by other friends). Each time we talk with Aboriginal people, we learn something new and although we have been on this journey for nearly 8 years now (on the West side of the Kimberley) we know we still have a lifetime of things to learn.
Yesterday we also had some more interesting visitors. One lady who was coming to our house almost weekly last year for Families God’s Way (parenting) classes, came for the first time this year for some review. We always learn so much from her too. Yesterday during our discussions on family we learned the Walmajarri word – marurr – which means caring, sharing, looking after. She was saying that her Mangala ancestors were known for this quality and it is something she really admired about her grandfather.
Then, in the late afternoon, we hosted a small group of young men (from several different countries) who have come to the Kimberley on a short term 4WD mission trip with YWAM. They visited us last Sunday and ate their lunch with us. And when we found out they were going to be back in town for the day again, we offered for them to drop in and catch up (a great opportunity for our two youngest teenage boys to have some fellowship with young fellas around their age). They have been out on a community that we visit regularly, so we were able to have a chat about how that has been going for them. It is refreshing to be with young people who are so open and motivated to serve the Lord. Straight after their time in the Kimberley they are off to serve in Africa for a short term missions trip.
We can’t claim that we are always ready to be the perfect hosts, that’s for sure! But it is cool to see who God brings into our lives and what we can learn from each other. 🙂
This week we were asked by a supporting church, “What are the daily challenges and struggles you face, both big and small, along with the blessings of serving the Lord where you are?”.
Struggles and challenges:
- The heat. For 2/3 of the year it feels like a perpetual heat wave, with no cool change in sight. In Summer (December to February), the average maximum temperature is 36°C with an average minimum temperature of 25°C. In Winter (June to August), the average maximum temperature is 32°C with an average minimum temperature of 18°C. For us, this means a lot of time inside, living in expensive air conditioning, trying to avoid the heat. We are very thankful for the local swimming pool! When we do go out, often the car feels like an oven by the time we’ve finished our business. This week’s forecast is for a maximum of 41 C & minimum of 27 C. This sort of constant heat gets draining.
- Isolation from family. As our parents get older and sometimes their health is not good, it is very hard to be so far away from them. Also, not being able to be there for our two older kids, Hayley and Jacob, in the different cities they have moved to is a bit hard at times. The cost of the average air fare to SA (where Linda’s family live) is around $1000 return (per person) and to Perth (where Hayley lives & is the city we’d fly to if we were going to visit Greg’s family in Albany) is around $500 return (per person). At the end of February we will no longer be able to fly from Derby but will have to drive 2 hours to Broome to catch a plane. Derby is over 4000 km from Adelaide & 2750 km from Albany.
Living in a town/area with high rates of drug and alcohol addiction and social problems such as domestic violence and suicide. This affects us indirectly and sometimes directly as we try and help/be a friend/support those affected. Dropping into Woolworths late on a (payday) Thursday afternoon often means seeing lots of people lining up to buy alcohol for a drinking binge.
- Constant tragedies occurring in a small town. This means funeral after funeral and sadness among the people we are ministering to. There are always funeral notices up on the local noticeboards.
- Isolation from like minded families. We have home educated our children since 2006. This was a bit easier in Kununurra where we were part of a strong co-op of home educators, but in Derby, we have been the only home educators for quite some time. Because of our faith and desire to give our children a Christian world view plus the struggles of the schools in town, we still think this is the best option for our family.
- Spiritual Apathy. We see the big spiritual need in this area, but people don’t always respond to the opportunities offered to them. Getting people to commit to a 6 week parenting course is difficult and numbers always fluctuate.
God’s Provision. We’re very thankful for all that God has provided for us through His people to keep us here and for blessing us with a large house which is really useful for living and ministry.
Relationships with Aboriginal People. The local people we have got to know are generally spiritually open and soft hearted. They have a great sense of humour and are very relational. (It is not unusual to be laughing so hard we have tears in our eyes during ladies Bible study.)
Flexible lifestyle. In order to last long term in the Kimberley it is important to be flexible and available. This is a challenge at times, but also can be a blessing because it means that we are able to home educate our children and be available at the same time for relationships.
Having a purpose. It is a privilege to be supported by so many people who give to us and pray for us constantly in order that we may serve God and share His Word here. Our relationship with God and His Holy Spirit strengthen us with joy to keep on keeping on. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Galatians 6:9
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
God’s grace and mercy are new every morning, great is His faithfulness!
In summing up the year, we would like to thank God for His grace for each day. It has been a good year because of His grace, provision and guidance.
This year was the first year that we have been serving with Growing Families Australia Missions. It has enabled us to pour our lives into what is on our hearts for the Kimberley and the unique and beautiful Aboriginal people whose homelands we live in. For us, this has been through first and foremost, building relationships over and above the Bible study groups and parenting classes we have run. The Aboriginal people on the whole are a very relational people, with soft, open hearts that are spiritually oriented. We have been (and are still) learning about the amazing and strong network of family relationships that criss-cross all across this vast area that is 3 times the size of England. When you start talking with an Aboriginal person, usually the first topics of conversation are about where you are from, who you are related to and which relationships you have in common.
God has blessed us with a large home in a central part of town. This block of land was the only one we could afford when we came here. We feel it is no accident that it is right next to a walkway and close by to the major supermarket, service station and local park. It has been great to use this home to host individuals, small & large groups for prayer, counselling, hospitality, Christian movie nights, fellowship groups, Bible studies, discipleship and parenting classes. We hope to see more of that in the year to come.
Apart from our ministry in Derby, we have regularly (weekly) visited the communities of Mowanjum (15 kms from Derby) and Looma (100 kms from Derby) for visitation, Bible study and parenting classes. Sometimes it has felt like slow progress, with fluctuating numbers at classes, but overall it has been encouraging to get to know people and have them be receptive to God’s Word, ask questions, take notes and share their lives.
Something new for us this year has been the opportunity for Greg to do some computer training at the Mowanjum Community Resource Centre and Linda to help out at the local Derby playgroup, both once/week. This has given us both a chance to have a regular point of contact with people in the two communities, apart from our weekly visits to Looma. Through these regular times we have been able to build trust with people which we hope will lead to further opportunities to minister. And this is already starting to bear fruit, with two of the playgroup mums coming along to our house for a parenting class and inviting some of their relatives also.
We praise God for the freedom to be able to do all this and the flexibility to be able to educate our two youngest boys at home, taking turns with their supervision.
All glory to God for His faithfulness in providing all we need for life and ministry here in the West Kimberley and thank you to all those who pray and give so that we can continue to be here.
On the 20th March we waved goodbye to our oldest son Jacob (who stayed in Derby to look after our home and continue working) and took off down the highway towards Perth and Albany.
We have now been away for over one month and even though it has been a long trip, we have been connecting with a lot of people, both old and new friends, sharing about the needs in the Kimberley, it’s people and our ministry there. The impetus for this trip initially was an invitation to attend the Growing Families Australia Key Leader’s Conference in Sydney.
GFA key leaders are those who are very familiar with the GFA parenting courses, practice the biblical parenting principles of GFA in their own families as well as regularly hold classes in their area. This conference was held at Stanwell Tops campsite an hour’s drive South of Sydney from the 9-12th April. We were blessed to be able to fly from Perth to Sydney with our two youngest boys. One of the highlights was having our special friend from the Kimberley, Rowena, come along also.
At the conference we were given a morning to share with the wider body of committed GFA leaders. Greg & I, Rowena and Joan Grosser used a powerpoint presentation to explain the great spiritual need of the Kimberley, the constant tragedies and grief suffered by so many there, the background history which explains a lot of the pain and the hope we have to offer in Christ and through the biblical parenting materials of GFA, which we are working on using as the basis of the Families God’s Way material. The presentation was well received and moved people to pray for us and of course the Kimberley. The need to pray for the men (fathers) of the Kimberley was highlighted and as a result, a list of men is being compiled along with some basic information and a photo so that people can choose one man and pray especially for him and his family. It has also been suggested that some GFA key leaders might regularly contact their chosen Kimberley man and encourage and/or mentor him.
As well as the more serious side of the conference, which included meetings to discuss how GFA can be more effective in reaching wider Australia, there was a lot of fun and games. The children and teens that came along enjoyed daily sessions of Bible teaching and activities, including giant swing rides, abseiling, pedal carts and archery. Our two boys really enjoyed this time of playing outside without getting hot, making new friends, and taking part in activities that they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do. Their were also regular times of whole family fun, including a bushdance, team challenges (held in family groups) and lots of loud chatter over meals.
Greetings from ‘the Kimberley’ where we are now in the ‘wet’ season of high temperatures, punctuated by thunder storms which bring heavy cooling rains.
Over the wet season period we have transitioned from working with Kingdom Aviation to becoming the first official full time missionaries serving under the Growing Families Australia name.
Growing Families Australia (GFA) is a Christian organisation committed to providing the family, church and community with parenting resources that will help instil, encourage, and perpetuate the passing on of biblical values from one generation to the next.
‘Family God’s Way in the Kimberley’ is one of several ministry initiatives of GFA. This ministry seeks to take the biblical parenting principles found in the material of ‘Growing Families International’ (authored and taught by Gary & Ann-Marie Ezzo) and ‘translate’ it into words and pictures appropriate for Australian Indigenous families. We are excited about the opportunity to fully focus on the Families God’s Way in the Kimberley parenting project and continue on with discipleship/pastoral relationships with the Indigenous people of the West Kimberley.
So far, two 6 session parts have been developed largely by Bill & Joan Grosser (former Growing Families Australia National Directors) and with valuable input by Rowena Mouda (Aboriginal Bardi woman).
Part One sessions are:
1. Our Family, Our Future (which is designed to get people thinking about what they would like for their children to be, showing that morals play a big part in these things. It is a challenge for parents to take seriously the training of their children – Proverbs 22:6)
2. Who Am I? (A session to explore who we are, what we will pass on to our children and what we can be in Christ.)
3. What is Love? (Explores the different types of love and the 5 love languages.)
4. Building Relationships (Talks about what makes a good or bad relationship and how to improve our relationships.)
5. How to Raise a Moral Child (Talks about how it is important to teach the moral reason why we do the things we do or do not do.)
6. Developing Character: Respect, Honour & Honesty (Explains character and the six natural relationships that are basic to every culture and society.)
Part Two sessions are:
1. Your Child’s Moral Conscience (Reviews the idea of teaching our children why we do what’s right and talks about how to do so.)
2. Love (More in depth teaching on love.)
3. Respect (Discusses the why, who and how of respect, plus examples of respect in Aboriginal history.)
4. Honesty (What is biblical honesty? Discusses 3 areas of honesty – in what we say, how we act and how we treat ourselves.)
5. Right Beginnings (teaches on the importance of the parents relationship with each other.)
6. Dads (A special session especially for the fathers.)
We have enjoyed the challenge of presenting these sessions in Mowanjum, Looma and One Arm Point (on the Dampier Peninsula) and are just starting classes in our home in Derby.
Bill & Joan Grosser have been our mentors and have already done so much ground work all over the Kimberley, starting up classes and getting people excited about the material.
The Families God’s Way material is available for those who are committed to teaching it and desire to do so in their area. If you would like to know more, contact us at email@example.com.
What is Families God’s Way in the Kimberley? It is a custom made parenting program being developed by Bill & Joan Grosser, Rowena Mouda and Greg & Linda Wilson with the Indigenous people of the Kimberley in mind.
These last 5 mths we have been partnering with Bill & Joan Grosser and Rowena Mouda (a Christian Indigenous woman who is passionate to see biblical parenting principles passed on to her people). We have been working on developing a parenting course suitable for Indigenous parents that includes biblical principles originally taught in the Growing Kids God’s Way parenting material. Bill & Joan have been working really hard on making relationships with people all over the Kimberley especially for the last four months while they have been based in Derby. They have been frequently driving long distances from Derby to Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Looma & Noonkanbah with added fortnightly trips to Broome. They have been taking classes in all of these places with Indigenous parents who have expressed an interest and a desire to become better equipped in their parenting journey. We have joined them in the Derby classes and have been learning how to teach these sessions from them as well as learning from Rowena’s great first hand knowledge of the local culture.
Now Bill and Joan are back in Perth, and we have launched out in partnership with Rowena starting a parenting class at nearby Mowanjum on Monday nights during school term. This is an exciting step for us all, as we’ve never done such a thing before, and for us it has the added cross cultural challenge.
Please pray for us as we make new relationships, and keep getting to know those at Mowanjum we have become friends with. Pray that all those who have been to one of the sessions will remember what they heard and be able to put it into practice is their own context.
It was the first Aboriginal funeral I have attended – but it almost certainly won’t be the last. Of all the funerals we could have gone to, this one was most likely one of the most positive. It was a nearly 3 hour long service commemorating the life of a 58 year old Worrorra/Ngaringyin/Wunambul woman, Heather Umbagai. We were just getting to know Heather out at Mowanjum before she died. She was a well spoken, kind and believing woman who was a leader in her community. She was the first Aboriginal woman to be trained as a nurse in this area, and perhaps Australia. In her later years she suffered from kidney and diabetic problems, but she was still active in organising, planning and participating in community events.
“Heather was a very inspirational lady who always wanted to do a lot of encouraging, helping, talking and listening to community people. The main focus she always wanted to get people to believe in the Lord. She always loved going to church [7th Day Adventist], singing and kept her faith strong. She loved reading the Bible going to church and telling people about God.” (Taken from her funeral booklet.)
The things I observed about this funeral, which I think may be distinctive from most non-Indigenous funerals, are as follows:
- The size! (300-400 people.) Great importance is put on attending a relative’s funeral. Often funerals are delayed for many weeks, even months, depending on how many local people have died beforehand. Each funeral must be held in order of death, so if there are several others who have died beforehand, you must wait your turn. This also gives family members (close and extended) time to travel from far away destinations to be there.
- The dress. Everybody was really scrubbed up for the occasion. Children were wearing new white shirts and pretty dresses & shoes.
- The wailing. Because this was a service that was attended by a lot of believers in the resurrection, I am guessing that there was not as much wailing as usual. Nevertheless, when the coffin was brought in & taken out at the end of the service a few people broke out into loud wailing. It was very moving.
- The freedom to come and lean over the coffin and cry. This was something new to me. I think in most white funerals I have attended (not many), touching the coffin would be a definite “no go” zone.
- The length. At nearly 3 hours, it was long. Time was given after the formal addresses for people to come up and say something about the deceased. This went on for about an hour. There was a very touching moment when a young man was escorted to the front hand cuffed to a prison guard. The young man, being a relative of Heather, was very distraught and spoke through sobs about his beloved mum/auntie. I think everyone really felt for him.
The highlight of this memorial service was the choir, made up of local Indigenous and Fijian singers. They sang some great Christian songs full of hope for the resurrection. As the coffin was carried out, this large choir sang “When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there”.
We were privileged to know Heather for a short time. She always made time for us when we visited her in her yard at Mowanjum. She was very well spoken, open to us and enthusiastic about her faith. We are glad that we were able to be connected enough to be able to join many others in commemorating her life.