A visit to a different country?
When we lived in Busselton I was still working for RPH, and would commute a few days every fortnight. While it may seem like it was a bit of a drag, it had its positives. Driving on my own for a few hours allowed me time to think and reflect, and to listen to some of my music! This time of reflecting produced some of my best sermons and enabled me to ponder my role both in the church and in the world. Even though I should have actually been pondering the road!
Sometimes in our busy lives, there is no time to ponder, no time to reflect on experiences that have been very profound. We suddenly jump to another event, another activity, without first thinking how the previous event has affected us and the way we may see things.
Reflection is an active pastime. It requires time, and space, but without it, we may go on repeating the same mistakes we always make, or continue a way of living that is not healthy for ourselves or for others.
I had an experience recently that needs a lot of reflection. This is only the start.
I went up into the north of Western Australia for a week to help run a school holiday program for aboriginal kids living in a community just outside a major town.
While I had seen many pictures of the community and had heard about programs that had been running for a while, I was taken aback by the lack of resources that were to be found, by the lack of order, and by the lack of infrastructure to cope with a demographic found more in developing countries than ones like ours. Over 50% of the 400 people were under 18.
What I did find, however, were children who were energetic, generous in their affection, and fun loving. I found elders trying to protect and education these children and the wider community. I found “white fellas”, who were compassionate and giving, and who were very conscious that they did not want to be just one of many people coming in and then disappearing after giving unwanted advice.
I found I loved the wide open spaces, the red dirt and the boab trees. The environment, though harsh, seems to give a freedom not found in the city, with all its services and recreational activities.
And I found that the God of sea and sky, the God of you and me is also the God of our indigenous brothers and sisters. Reflected in their belief in the Wandjina, a supreme spirit being, which has eyes for seeing but no mouth with which to judge, is a God who has been carried with them through the generations. Their spirituality can teach us much about connecting to each other and all of creation. Creation stories are needed by every culture and generation, to find who they are and where they come from. We have both the biblical genesis stories, and our beautiful magnificent stories of the development of the universe and the stars and planets. The aboriginal people have their own stories which link them to the land and to their forebears which they generously share if we listen.
I am realistic, and acknowledge the harshness of the problems facing these communities. Years of dependency, the problems of alcohol, and the lack of parenting of the next generation leads one to despair. The reasons are complex, but the forced moving of the communities further and further away for their lands, and the social and racial injustice over many years, reflected in poor health and education standards, have not helped.
But acknowledging the realities does not change things. Action and involvement changes things.
There is hope, there is always hope. But hope is much more than wishful thinking.
Hope is about seeing a better, more life giving way and then following that way bit by bit until it becomes a reality. It’s not wishing for something to happen and then not doing a damn thing to help it happen. It’s getting in and participating in whatever way we can.
And it may take generations or it may just take one. Sometimes change can never seem like it is coming, and then, it does, with a bang. Or it can come silently, without us noticing that things are different. Suddenly we look around and things have changed.
In reflecting on our time, it is like so much of life, light and dark together, intertwined. But as Jesus followers, God bearers, we will always follow the light.
So I will be back, again and again to this community and its people, until suddenly the light stays on.